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Argylle. I haven't posted a review in a while. And we might not be around when a good one comes out Cannoli Send a noteboard - 04/02/2024 04:52:56 AM

They promise us Sam Rockwell, Brian Cranston, Henry Cavill, Samuel L Jackson, John Cena, comic legend Catherin O'Hara and a hot girl. And Bryce Dallas Howard. In an action/spy movie by Matthew Vaughn, the poor man's Guy Ritchie. The actual Guy Ritchie made a much better spy movie with Henry Cavill and a not-quite hot chick, "The Man from U.N.C.L.E.", an adaptation of a TV show my grandmother used to watch (for taste references, her favorite shows were M.A.S.H., Bonanza and Star Trek. And TJ Hooker. Nana knew what she liked).

What we get is a rehash of the by-now trope where an attractive-for-her-age best-selling lady novelist finds herself on adventure like the ones she only writes books about. We get Romancing the Stone, with cartoon action, and no chemistry. We get "The Long Kiss Goodnight" with no edgy anything, no relatable heroine or sidekick and no family stakes. We get "The Lost City" without ... I didn't actually watch that one. I saw most of the cast in the much better (I assume) "Bullet Train". We get "Freelance" with much, much less John Cena, and much, much more poundage on the writer-lady. Except they make this older, fatter actress do stuff that the writers of "Freelance", mess that it was, would not have dreamed of having Alison Brie plausibly attempt. Hell, the Jurassic World franchise didn't even try to make Bryce Dallas Howard, when she was a bit younger and a lot more lean, as implausibly action-oriented as this movie, and those had her outrun a dinosaur wearing high heels.

Anyway, Howard is fine for the first half, where she is supposed to be a relatable (the target audience seems to be, as with She-Hulk, middle-aged professional single women whose only significant relationships are with wine and cats) everywoman thrust into situations over her head. "Knight and Day" gave us Cameron Diaz in her prime, and did not try to make us believe she had spy skills.

The movie begins with an action scene tease of Henry Cavill and John Cena being badass spy guys pursuing a femme fatale with silly eye makeup and a slinky gold dress. They discover their creepy boss is actually evil and they have to go off the grid to stop their rogue agency, and it turns out this is all just a novel being read by Howard's character Elly, at a book-signing thing, where it is established that her novels are the books actual spies read, but she doesn't actually know any spies, she just does lots and lots of research. She has another book in the pipeline and finishes it and sends it to her mom to beta-read, but mom calls the cliffhanger ending bullshit, and demands she write another chapter to tell people where Cavill's Argylle is going, to fetch the McGuffin. Elly has writer's block, and ends up going on a train with her cat in a backpack carrier, and is accosted by a fan, who reveals he is actually a spy and defends her from a whole train full of assassins and whisks her away to safety, where he reveals that everything in her novels has actually come to pass, and as a result, the evil rogue agency who are just like the antagonists of her books, under the leadership of Brian Cranston, are hunting her to figure out how to find the real life version of her protagonist. So her rescuer, Sam Rockwell, is trying to stop them, because he is looking for the McGuffin that fictitious agent Argylle was supposed to pick up in the latest book, except for the cliffhanger. So Elly & Sam Rockwell (his character, despite being the deuteragonist, and as close as they get to a love interest, of the movie with the second most screen-time, did not make enough of an impression on me to remember his name) go searching London for the doohickey, with some mildly amusing bits of Elly's discomfort with action & violence, but otherwise utterly implausible tradecraft failures, where all her book research is almost as helpful as Rockwell's actual spy experience. So it's like "Castle" with less attractive leads, a less badass gun-toting-love-interest character, and a less-funny writer character.

Anyway, after a revelation estranges Elly and Rockwell, a "shocking" twist upends her life history, and resets the movie. This twist, by the way, while marginally set up (I gave you as many hints in my summary as the movie did - that, plus the failure of a person in a particular role to actually appear on screen tipped me off to the twist), also renders certain scenes confusing, because why would they occur? Also, Elly starts hallucinating Agent Argylle appearing in mirrors to reassure and encourage her. Because it's the 21st century and women are entitled to positivity and affirmation at every turn, especially from men who look like Henry Cavill. Anyway, they have to go on the run to find exposition man who will set up the climax which requires Elly to don a slinky gold dress and silly eye makeup, just like the femme fatale, and Rockwell to dress & style his hair like Argylle. And Elly gets to reveal her inner badass and there is an overly stylized action set piece, followed up an implausible action set piece with a whole bunch of absurd contrivances all piling up to force a particular solution from the heroine, calling back to her briefly mentioned ice-skating accident. And then, the movie says "Fuck it" and ignores one of the constraints they had previously used to force the tactic, and cuts the scene off. But there are still about three or four more twists to go, with the eucatastrophic one counting on the audience believing that in this day and age, such a pandering-to-aging-feminist-sensibilities film as this one has been revealed to be, would actually kill off a character with a list of certain ideal checkboxes. Shocker, this character is NOT dead, and arrives to save the day, in the most unimpressive way possible for that character, but we are supposed to be impressed.

They were so confident in this garbage that they actually filmed a mid-credit scene to set up a sequel.

If you are a woman of, or approaching middle-age, with a career that sounded cool when you were in college, but you are starting to suspect does not contribute anything of tangible value to society, and has little potential for a legacy, and you don't feel like you get nearly enough praise or positive feedback, with zero kids and no significant other who is in this for the long haul with you, and no real prospect of one, because the men who look like Henry Cavill, or even Sam Rockwell, hell, maybe even the ones who look like Brian Cranston, no longer check you out, even in your sluttiest party dress, no matter how desperately you move on the dance floor, THIS is the James Bond type movie you have been waiting for.

Everyone else, you can watch a better-done version of whatever this movie has to offer, some of which I mentioned in this review.

SPOILERS

Okay, the first obvious twist is that the mother, after reading Elly's book, starts demanding she write the same thing that we later see all the spies want to know. Also, Elly's father is mentioned a bit, but is never ever seen, with the mother just referencing his presence or shouting to him off-camera, and we are somehow supposed to believe that it's anyone other than Brian Cranston, the evil director of the enemy agency. Later on, they show us the set from which the (fake) mother would Skype/Zoom with Elly. Except they also had a scene where the mother's neighbor comes over to her house with his cordless phone, saying that her daughter is calling collect from England, and the conversation references the neighbor's habit of borrowing sugar from the mother. Mom & Elly talk, Mom agrees they will come find her and calls to her husband that they are going to England. But if it was all fake and her calls with her not-daughter were all done from in the enemy HQ, what was that scene?

Twist #2 is that Elly is actually one of the best spies in the world, her name is Rachel Kyle. R. Kyle. Argylle. Her novels have been her memories of her own operations emerging after the leaders of the enemy agency brainwashed her into forgetting her past and believing they were her parents. When Sam Rockwell first showed up, he told her that the one thing her books get wrong is that spies don't look like male models with distinctive haircuts and fashion choices. Which is true for actual spies, who need to blend in and look ordinary. But what goes on in this movie is not espionage, it's James Bond/Tom Cruise spycraft, with a lot of extraordinary combat and stunt work. You need to be in shape is what I am saying. Bryce Dallas Howard can play the kind of spy who blends in and gathers information. When she puts on a slinky gold dress and silly eye makeup to remind us of the more conventionally-attractive actress in the spy novel sequences, you especially cannot help but notice that she is not at all in shape for this sort of thing. In dossier photos of her in combat fatigues, it looks possibly like she might be some stocky, muscular type, and I was almost ready to give them credit for it, but nope. She's just supposed to be regular woman dressing up as sexy, and the humor is supposed to be in the contrast, like Jamie Lee Curtis in "True Lies" who, despite being an office worker, and plausibly, the mother of a teenager, is visibly much more fit. And Arnold Schwarzenegger, despite being more obviously suited to OTT action scenes, actually does more things that pass for plausible espionage in a single scene, than everyone in all of "Argylle".

Anyway, after repeated fakeouts concerning Elly/Rachel's true allegiance, she does the magic computer thing that will beat the bad guys, and her cat kills Brian Cranston. There is a sequence where they use brightly-colored smoke grenades to enable them to assault a group of soldiers in a corridor. I thought the different colors represented different types of gas, but nope. It's all just smoke, whose Doylist purpose was for artistic visuals and Watsonian purpose was to prevent the bad guys from seeing them to shoot them, except it does not prevent them from shooting the bad guys and it's all set up like a dance number. Then there is another action scene, where crude oil is oozing across the floor of the room (it is later revealed that the secret enemy headquarters is located on a supertanker for camouflage and mobility, I guess, except that would not work, and the reality is that datum is only dropped in to explain the oil). The bad guys immediately put away their guns, lest a spark blow everything up and they are closing in on Rockwell and Howard, with knives, despite the slippery floor, so Howard remembers she is a great ice skater, steps on a pair of knives so they stick to the soles of her boots like skate blades (still in the slinky gold dress with silly eye makeup), fixes the bayonet on her assault rifle and SPEED SKATES across the oily floor on her combat-boots-with-knives skates, slicing and dicing bad guys in a sequence that goes on way too long and they realize it, so they have her end it with an extended burst of gunfire, because needing to be careful of explosions randomly stopped being a thing.

The finale has Howard and Rockwell fighting over a button to save the day, except the fake mom is playing brainwashing music which is forcing Howard to fight Rockwell and foil their plan. He just stands there simping at her while she beats him up, because he loves her too much to fight back, until Keira shows up to save the day. Keira was a character in the opening novel sequence, who takes a round in the chest. She is a black woman who is the hacker of the crew with Argylle & John Cena, and introduces herself to the audience bragging about how she could be the next Steve Jobs if she wasn't so busying spying. When we learn that Howard is actually the basis for Argylle (and Rockwell the basis for Cena), we are also told that she did not alter Keira in her books, because the real Keira died in action, just like in the novel sequence. Howard wistfully remarks that she had actually intended to bring Keira back in a future novel, after a fan e-mailed her an idea for a plot twist. A. Authors don't do that. It's treated like plagiarism and the fan in such a scenario can claim intellectual property theft. B. With that mechanism in place, do they REALLY expect us to believe that a woman of color with unbelievable STEM expertise was killed off in the opening scene of a movie just so white people can briefly mourn her? That the tech genius herself was not the author of the e-mail trying to subtly let her comrade in arms know she was alive and willing to help whatever cover op had her writing best-selling novels about their adventures (that bit was real - the evil agency in question hypnotized Howard into being a great writer and/or controlled the publishing industry to such a degree that her novels were all best-sellers, over a period of too few years)? So throughout the final mission with the slinky gold dress and silly eye makeup and Sam Rockwell in a velvet jacket and flatop haircut, every time things looked bad, I kept expecting their fortunes to be reversed by Keira hacking something. Then, finally, during the final fight, with fake mom holding up the hypnotic device in plain sight in the open air, I expected Keira to be waiting nearby to snipe it out of her hand and show off her mad combat chops. Instead, she walks up and hits a nearly 70 year old woman by surprise. What a badass.

Cannoli
“Tolerance is the virtue of the man without convictions.” GK Chesteron
Inde muagdhe Aes Sedai misain ye!
Deus Vult!
*MySmiley*
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Argylle. I haven't posted a review in a while. And we might not be around when a good one comes out - 04/02/2024 04:52:56 AM 99 Views

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