Elly Conway (Bryce Dallas Howard) is a successful novelist who finds the ending to her latest novel about a super-spy (Henry Cavill) not to her satisfaction. On a whim, she decides to take a train trip to visit her mother (Catherine O'Hara) and find some inspiration along the way. Instead, she stumbles onto a vast conspiracy, a real-life super-spy (Sam Rockwell), and the fact that her novels are more real than she realises...
Matthew Vaughan's work as a director is an acquired taste. Even though his directorial career began with the somewhat promising 'Layer Cake' featuring a pre-Bond Daniel Craig, it seems like Vaughan has found a furrow and is intent on ploughing it for all it's worth. Ten years after 'Kingsman', the director-producer is still running the same formula of visual gags and dance-choreographed action setpieces and with the same mixture of spy-fi comedy antics blended through it all. Sure, some of the actors have changed over the years, but it's basically the same schtick - for better or worse.
'Argylle' is by no means Vaughan's worst work - that honour is reserved for 'The King's Man', a borderline offensive action comedy that rewrote World War I for shits and giggles. What 'Argylle' is, however, is Vaughan's most laboured work. Standing at two hours and twenty-odd minutes, 'Argylle' could have been a much more entertaining and engaging experience if it had shorn off at least forty minutes of its runtime and condensed some of the clunky exposition and the jittery setpieces. Or better yet, find a better writer than Jason Fuchs. Instead, it rattles its way through them all, just choking any kind of goodwill out of the audience until it arrives at the ultimately dull and obvious finale.
There's a great cast assembled for this, however. Sam Rockwell is always a great choice in a comedy, be it as the hapless security officer in 'Galaxy Quest' or something like 'See How They Run'. Equally, pairing him up with Bryce Dallas Howard as the hapless novelist caught in the spy world brings back memories of 'Romancing The Stone'. For her part, Howard does her best in the confines of a poor script, but it's always pushing up against it. The same goes for Catherine O'Hara and Bryan Cranston, who again are squandered by the poor writing and the flat, uninteresting direction.
That's the problem with 'Argylle', when you come right down to it. Even with an extended cameo by Dua Lipa, the whole mystery surrounding the real-life Elly Conway and whether or not she might be Taylor Swift (she isn't), and Henry Cavill's ridiculous flat-top hairstyle, there's nothing terribly interesting in 'Argylle' outside of these. It's the same gags, the same tricks, the same bells and whistles deployed by Matthew Vaughan again and again over a period of time that does nothing but highlight the sameness of it all. The grinding runtime means that even when you've got Bryce Dallas Howard skating through an oil slick with knives on her boots, you're just bored by it all. How does that even happen?