Argylle (12A, 139 Minutes)
Matthew Vaughn is a director with a plan. Plans take time, commitment and must be clever. Sadly, Vaughn didn’t get the memo and his attempt at creating a peculiar ‘spy universe’ has the extravagance of a Bond film from the 80’s, but is devoid of any real thought and lacks grit – and yet the worst culprit isn’t the film itself, but its tawdry marketing campaign which offered so much yet gives diddly squat.
We are first introduced to suave Agent Argylle (Henry Cavill) who is every aspect of Bond from the suit and turtleneck to cool gadgets. But this is likely the closest Cavill will be getting to 00 status, oozing charm and joie de vivre but sporting a dreadful flat top haircut that makes him look like a five-year old sugared up on blue Smarties.
Then we’ve got a stereotypical femme fatale (Dua Lipa) in the sexiest, glittery dress imaginable, her beefy henchmen and a chase sequence across a Greek island as Argylle searches for ‘the master key’ which will expose the devious doings of The Division, whatever that is.
Then suddenly, we’re in a book shop. Everything you’ve just seen is total fiction from the mind of meek author Elly Conway (Bryce Dallas Howard). She’s been writing the Argylle series for many years and this particular story is set to be its conclusion.
On a train, accompanied by a cat she keeps stuffed in a backpack (you think that’s unlikely? Wait for what’s coming), she is saved from a group of hired assassins by Aidan (Sam Rockwell) who reveals himself as a spy working to take down The Division, which is real, and that her books are all factual, revealing future details.
So begins a journey across the globe in which the duo are guided by a sort of Q character Solomon (Samuel L Jackson). The ensemble cast includes Catherine O’ Hara as Elly’s ‘Mom’, Bryan Cranston as a devious Blofield-esque baddie, John Cena, Richard E. Grant and many, many more.
Was it the script that drew this collection of famous faces to join this project? Very doubtful. The dialogue is weak, but the actors really try to work with what they’ve got and it just about manages to pass as funny, maybe even snappy, from time to time.
Perhaps the most disappointing aspect of the film, however, is Vaughn’s biggest twist, which of course closes this story and opens a can of worms to what the director probably believes might be huge but is actually an inflated mess with no logic.
Take a peek at the ending of his last film and you might get an inkling of what I mean.
Strong in its cast, Argylle unfortunately misses the target by a mile and has as much fun as Tom Cruise leaping from a rooftop and breaking his leg.