Wednesday, February 7, 2024


Accent on the "Arrrgh"
Henry Cavill's Failed James Bond Audition (Part 3)

Aubrey Argyle (Henry Cavill), an agent for an intelligence division (headed by Richard E. Grant) is on a mission in Greece to find a source of information (doesn't matter what it never matters). In contact with his associates, Wyatt (John Cena) and Keira (Ariana DeBose), he infiltrates a dance club where he asks the seductress LaGrange (Dua Lipa) to dance the "whirleybird," a dance where he basically wears his partner as a muffler. She reveals that the whole set-up is a trap to kill him. She exits, while everyone in the club pulls out an automatic weapon. With such a circular firing squad, Argylle escapes, but is fired upon by a waiting LaGrange. Keira pulls up in a range rover to pursue her, but is shot through the heart. He alerts Wyatt that LaGrange is making her escape, and makes the choice to leave the wounded Keira and hijacks a vehicle to pursue LaGrange himself. As she speeds off down a winding, switch-backing road, Argylle takes the shortest route, over the roof-tops of local buildings, crashing down stair-cases, causing all sorts of damage to the scenery, architecture, and his own vehicle, that, if there was any sort of local press, would create so much havoc that the term "secret mission" would no longer apply. And, it's all for not, as Agent Wyatt, reaches out to the passing LaGrange and merely plucks her off her speeding motorcycle. Okay. So, (one may ask) why the carnage? These guys are talking to each other...why didn't someone just say..."You're strong. Grab her by the designer-label and yank her off her bike?"
Cut to: a book lecture. Author Ellie Conway (
Bryce Dallas Howard) is finishing reading what we'd just seen to her rapt audience. They all applaud her awaiting her to sign her latest book, the fourth in her "Argyle" series about a fictional secret agent with a Dexter Poindexter hair-cut, who's big, strong, impossibly handsome and somehow does undercover work that nobody notices. Nobody brings up that point during her Q-and-A (maybe because screenwriter Jason Fuchs is moderating the talk).
But, after her talk she goes home to her cat, Alfie (director Matthew Vaughn's nepo-kitty, Chip), and her Argylle action figures and tries to write another chapter of her forthcoming book. But, she's stuck, so stuck that even the fantasy-Argylle in her imagination starts to get a little irritated with her. Phone-call to mother (Catherine O'Hara), who advises her that the manuscript to her latest book feels incomplete and she shouldn't end it with a cliff-hanger—why doesn't she come by for a visit and they can resolve it (Sure, that's what I always do when I'm stuck in writerly quick-sand!), and she takes a train—she hates to fly—to go visit.
She and the cat intend to spend an isolated train-trip while she researches, but the train compartment's a bit crowded—anyone wanting to take the seat across from her is rebuffed with a "someone's already sitting there." Except for this one guy (Sam Rockwell), who rather blithely sits across from her, irritates her cat (and her) and wants to make small talk. Elly nose-dives into her book and doesn't engage—he recognizes her and is a big fan of her work (swell!). But around the time she asks him what it is that he does for work—"Espionage" is his answer—she's approached by an autograph-seeker, whose pen sprouts a hypodermic needle and the guy, Aiden Wilde, takes the guy out with a few swift moves.
Aiden is not what he seems (nothing is, as we're to find out). Suddenly, everybody in the train compartment starts to attack Aiden trying to get to Elly. While she sits there, horrified—and imagining that it's her agent Argylle doing the fighting—he flails, kicks, somersaults, and uses everybody's weapons against them. This is some well-organized kidnapping that's been planned out—all those assassins with all those tickets—then, you'd think that they'd all rush at once instead of waiting until their turn at bat. And in the next car, is a bunch of guys with automatic weapons. Big automatic unconcealable weapons. Is Amtrak that lax? And is there no such thing as innocent by-standers in this movie?
Apparently not. Argylle
is one of those spy-fantasy flicks along the lines of Flint, Matt Helm, Austin Powers and Vaughn's own "Kingsman" series, that make the Bond series look like "kitchen-sink" dramas. Things happen very fast so you don't have time to consider the lack of story-logic, gravity, mass, physics and the day-to-day realities of life and the Universe that would stop this movie cold if anybody in the audience raised their hand and said "Excuse me...that makes no sense." In Matthew Vaughn's universe, that audience member would instantly be executed (with colorful smoke!) by every other audience member.
It's eye-candy, not brain-candy. It's a comedy, not an adventure, or a thriller, or a mystery, or an espionage film, or a drama...or much of anything, really. One is never engaged in any means to an end because  It's designed that you sit back, relax, eat your pop-corn, and silence your brain along with your cell-phone (as a matter of fact, it's one of those movies that you could text, make a phone-call, play a game, and not miss a detail—nothing matters and anything might be contradicted fifteen minutes later). The Elly-fantasy sequences are just as realistic as the Elly-"reality" sequences, and if you have a memory retention of more than thirty seconds, you're going to get irritated. Enjoy the popcorn; it's much more substantial.
Great cast, though. John Cena knows how to play comedy merely by timing and not by expression, Bryce Dallas Howard's quite good for what she's been given to work with. Bryan Cranston knows what the material's worth and just chews, chews, chews, and Catherine O'Hara's a bit wasted. Henry Cavill...well...the man's a poser and one wonders how many of these things he's going to do before the internet just throws up their hands and says "James Bond? Anybody but him." The film is also a bit of a bait-and-switch as Cavill and Cena's screen-time amount to about twenty minutes of screen-time. "Such small portions." The film has something to disappoint everybody.
The one thing I clung to throughout the entire movie was Sam Rockwell. From the moment he shows up to the final frame, he's invested in his character and makes it work. Where many in the cast are posturing and playing over-the-top, Rockwell's off-the-cuff insouciance and embracing of the weird feels natural and oddly charismatic. It may be too much to say that Rockwell believes the performance and sells it his manic energy, but he provides a genuineness in something that feels so faked. The one thing you come away sure of after the movie is how damned talented Rockwell is. He's a treasure, worth far more than any plot McGuffin is worth.
Thinking about the movie too much depresses me, but if you want further thoughts—and a lively panel discussion—Argylle is the subject of Episode 721 of the Lambcast (I'm the one grumbling throughout).
The best part of the movie (aside from Sam Rockwell) is the trailer.  Here it is. Save yourself the trouble. isn't...and it won't.
"The Bigger the Lie," indeed.

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