Review by Rich Cline | 3/5

dir Matthew Vaughn
scr Jason Fuchs
prd Matthew Vaughn, Adam Bohling, Jason Fuchs, David Reid
with Bryce Dallas Howard, Sam Rockwell, Bryan Cranston, Catherine O'Hara, Henry Cavill, Samuel L Jackson, Ariana DeBose, John Cena, Sofia Boutella, Dua Lipa, Tomas Paredes, Richard E Grant
release UK/US 2.Feb.24
24/UK Universal 2h19

cranston ohara cavill

Is it streaming?

rockwell and oward
Rather overloaded, this raucous spy thriller is funny, loud, violent, action-packed and very long. Filmmaker Matthew Vaughn injects his usual snarky humour into every scene, along with so much digital trickery that much of the movie looks like a cartoon. But the adept actors add gusto as they hang on to the wildly gyrating plot. So even if it's not particularly inventive, there's fun to be had along the way.
Best-selling author Elly (Howard) has a huge fanbase for her spy novels about agent Argylle, whom she imagines as a beefy smoothy (Cavill) with sidekicks who are beefier (Cena) and brainier (DeBose). En route to see her over-involved mother (O'Hara), she meets Aidan (Rockwell), a real but rather scrappy spy who says that her books have made her a target in the espionage world. And now they're jetting to London, hiding on a French farm with an ex CIA boss (Jackson) and desperately trying to stop an evil agency boss (Cranston) before he kills them.
Of course, this is more than a comical romp about a writer and her cat who are the key to finding yet another potentially earth-shattering memory stick. Fuchs' script continually withholds secrets so he can drop bombshells later, although these revelations are heavily telegraphed. The fun comes in the way Vaughn stages everything with operatic glee, using colour, music and dance choreography to ham things up to the rafters. If there was a bit more attention to fight choreography rather than gunplay, it might have been thrilling.

Howard is a likeable lead, a smart woman who discovers things inside that help her face the craziness erupting around her. Her chemistry with the enjoyably busy Rockwell is engaging, even as Rockwell and Cavill continually swap roles in Elly's mind's eye. If DeBose and Cena are underused, comedy geniuses Cranston and O'Hara get plenty of chance to chew skilfully on the scenery. And Jackson brings his trademark laid-back cool to the show.

Big and flashy enough to keep audiences entertained, it's frustrating that so little about the film is memorable. Vaughn is creating his own parallel universe with this and the Kingsman movies, happily going over the top with pretty much every element. But the digitally altered seams are showing in almost every scene, removing a sense of gravity and weight from the physicality, which lets our minds wander to more involving movies than this. But it's diverting enough, and most viewers won't mind hints about a prequel/sequel.

cert 12 themes, language, violence 30.Jan.24

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© 2024 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall