The Korea Herald


[Herald Review] Even scene-stealing kitty cannot rescue 'Argylle'

Pastiche of a spy movie with nonsensical action and little else

By Kim Da-sol

Published : Feb. 4, 2024 - 13:50

    • Link copied

“Argylle” (Universal Pictures) “Argylle” (Universal Pictures)

After a trio of “Kingsman” movies, director Matthew Vaughn decided on a change of pace, playfully approaching a spy caper with less violence in “Argylle.” It even stars a cute kitten who appears more often than the protagonist. Yet, the movie is just another pastiche of spy action with whimsical action and little else.

“Argylle” follows Elly Conway (Bryce Dallas Howard), a reclusive author and a cat lady who writes bestselling espionage novels in which the namesake agent, Argylle (Henry Cavill), unravels a global spy syndicate. But as her work pushes her closer to a real-life spy organization, the line between fiction and reality blurs. Sam Rockwell appears as cat-allergic spy Aiden, who has to bring back Elly to “where she belongs.”

The movie isn’t the first caper to have a protagonist who notices he is a character inside a novel (see: “Stranger than Fiction”). Nor is it the first to see a mild-mannered woman being dragged into danger by a traitor-turned-spy (see: “Knight and Day”).

Several scenes in “Argylle” offer a sense of deja vu, such as when “Kingsman” alum Samuel L. Jackson executes an identical action sequence in front of a huge screen in his lab, as well as the repeat of “Kingsman” flagship fireworks explosion in the finale. Whether Vaughn meant to pay homage to himself remains unknown.

“Argylle” (Universal Pictures) “Argylle” (Universal Pictures)

Big stars cast in “Argylle” is Vaughn’s other silly mistake.

The movie begins with a sequence where a tall and handsome agent Argylle (Cavill) flirts with a femme fatale (Dua Lipa) on an island in Greece, with their chemistry moving on to a rooftop car chase and machine gun shootout. The first three minutes are worth watching if only because Cavill, Lipa and John Cena barely appear later in the film. Meanwhile, the true scene-stealer in the film is Sam Rockwell, who presents a less-brawny, scruffy spy hero with bravado-filled action.

That said, some of the spy action cliches in “Argylle” have been reinvented whimsically.

While hardly any bloodshed is to be found during the major fight scenes, the audience cannot help but raise eyebrows at Elly fighting villains by ice skating on crude oil and a massacre through clouds of color-coordinated tear gas to the Beatles song “Now and Then” playing in the background.

“Argylle” director Matthew Vaughn (Universal Pictures) “Argylle” director Matthew Vaughn (Universal Pictures)

According to Vaughn, he wanted to create a contrast between the different spies in “Argylle.”

“I have done the superhuman spy for a fair amount of time, so I thought it would be interesting to have a superspy on the left who is Henry Cavill and a more realistic spy who is Sam Rockwell, and see a world where fictional and realistic spies collide together,” Vaughn said during an online interview with local media on Thursday.

“The most important thing was the balance and tone, because it is a movie that has action, comedy and romance, and what to expect is to expect the unexpected," the director said. "And you will come out with a smile on your face and go on a journey, hopefully surprising and a lot of fun.”

Considering that “Kingsman” trilogy was a huge hit with Korean cinemagoers – the original “Kingsman: The Secret Service” sold 6 million tickets in 2014 – the movie may suit the taste of Korean moviegoers who don’t mind a nonsensical mishmash of conventional spy flicks.

“Argylle” hits local movie theaters Wednesday.

“Argylle” (Universal Pictures) “Argylle” (Universal Pictures)