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'Argylle' heavy on twists, light on Cavill

'Argylle' heavy on twists, light on Cavill

Matthew Vaughn's latest delivers enjoyable, if cartoonish, action.

Alert: This article contains spoilers for the 2024 movie "Argylle."

With the likes of "X-Men: First Class," "Kick-Ass," and the "Kingsman" series, director Matthew Vaughn has established himself as a trusted source of stylishly retro, over-the-top action movies.

Fans expect Vaughn to depart from cookie-cutter formula while still delivering the requisite thrills. The divided reaction to his latest foray into the "spy-fi" genre suggests he may have strayed too far.

Anyone expecting "Argylle" to be the film that finally gives Henry Cavill his due will be disappointed.

"Argylle" follows acclaimed spy novelist Elly Conway (Bryce Dallas Howard), who, hot off the heels of releasing her latest “Argylle” novel, is struggling to find the story for the next installment. Writer's block becomes the least of her worries when she’s pursued by a shady real-life spy group called Division, which has noticed that Elly has perfectly predicted its criminal plots in her books. To the rescue is Aiden Wilde (Sam Rockwell), a witty CIA spy tasked with protecting her.

Rockwell and Howard have good chemistry together, just as the marketing promises. But "Argylle" short-changes us with the shockingly meager screen time it gives to Henry Cavill as the titular character.

While Hollywood often struggles with how to use Cavill (see his recent unceremonious ouster as Superman), his excellent performances in "Mission: Impossible," "Enola Holmes," and multiple Guy Ritchie films have made him a fan favorite. Anyone expecting "Argylle" to be the film that finally gives the talented performer his due will be disappointed.

That said, the action sequences are wildly entertaining, set to either fist-pumping throwback jams or sensual love ballads to varying degrees of cringe and cool, including the original song “Electric Energy.”

Where "Argylle" stumbles are its twists: There are just too many of them. The film’s pivotal reveal is that Elly Conway has been basing Argylle's adventures on the repressed memories of her own spy career, under her real name Rachel Kylle (R. Kylle). Her writer's block stems from the fact that her latest "story" is playing out in real time.

This twist alone makes for a compelling story, but its impact is bogged down by several more “gotcha” moments that feel like jokes with little relevance to the plot. The result is an adrenaline rush of action and spectacle that often verges on the cartoonish.

Still, trying a little too hard is preferable to the usual playing it safe, and "Argylle" is immense fun despite its flaws. The pressures of blockbuster moviemaking can often neutralize the qualities that make a director unique. For better or worse, Matthew Vaughn has held on to his signature style, and it's on full display in "Argylle."

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