Bad news for Henry Cavill fans, and fans of director Matthew Vaughn, whose past films include Kick-Ass, Starudyste and X-Men: First Class.
The new spy movie Argylle, which stars Cavill alongside Bryce Dallas Howard, Sam Rockwell, Bryan Crantson, Dua Lipa and more is bombing with critics. The film, which opens this weekend, faces scathing reviews.
Currently, Argylle holds a decidedly rotten 34% on Rotten Tomatoes, though there are no audience scores up yet so it’s impossible to compare the critics’ take against audiences at least on RT. The discussion among fans over on Reddit, however, is overwhelmingly negative as well. The general vibe boils down to this:
Argylle is too long with too many meaningless twists in a plot that stumbles all over itself, drowned in endless action scenes and bad CGI. It plays like a parody of action films but without being funny.
I haven’t seen the movie yet—I think I’ll just wait for its Apple TV+ release—but I could tell from the first trailer that it wasn’t going to be good.
At the time, I wrote:
It looks like it was made direct-for-streaming in all the worst ways. Generic cinematography that feels overly polished and completely uninteresting. Action scenes with no vim or vigor. A twisty-turny spy thriller that feels unoriginal and predictable. This is the exact kind of movie you make to appease the algorithm, which isn’t shocking at all given that it’s an Apple TV+ flick.
Since that trailer aired, we’ve all been bombarded with trailers for the film in one of the most egregious marketing zeitgeists I’ve ever seen.
Now that it’s out, here’s what critics are saying.
Richard Roeper of the Chicago Sun-Times calls the movie bloated, saying it’s “more exhausting than interesting.” The promise of sequels, he notes, “seems more daunting than exciting.” Roeper compares watching the spy flick to wasting one’s time watching a gender reveal party gone wrong: At first you can’t help but watch, but “eventually you kick yourself for wasting your time watching some idiots filling the sky with blue and/or pink smoke and fireworks as the whole thing falls apart in spectacularly awful fashion.”
Adam Graham of Detroit News notes that Argylle is “A spy tale with plenty of twists and turns but no sense of stakes or intrigue, “Argylle” is a convoluted mess of a story in search of a purpose beyond its own self-inflated sense of style.”
The Bulwark’s Sonny Bunch takes aim at the film’s overuse of CGI. “Almost nothing looks like it takes place in anything resembling a real location,” he writes. He, and other critics, have pointed out that the fakeness of it all would have worked if only the scenes from the book-within-the-movie were greenscreen/CGI, but since that’s the look for the entire movie it doesn’t work. Quoth Bunch:
There’s an identifiable fakeness to the green-screen work here—rooftops that are clearly surrounded by nothing but blue walls; oceans that contain nary a drop of water; even an oil slick used in an action sequence that makes it obvious that nothing on the screen is an actual, physical item—that audiences are going to look back on in five, ten, twenty years from now and say “Oh yeah, that’s a streaming-era picture.” It’s the inability to match light sources and shadows, the way the buildings in the background are either out of focus or in too-clear focus, the uncanny valley of a skyline that’s too brilliantly blue, a sun too perfectly flared on the horizon. It’d be one thing if, say, Vaughn had chosen to use the completely fake backgrounds solely in the book-within-the-movie, the flatness of the Hong Kong skyline complementing the shallowness of Elly’s writing. But by bringing it into the “real” world as well, you realize it’s just … well, laziness is the only word. It looks terrible, but it’s quicker to shoot, so Hey, let’s give it a shot!
Kurt Loder, writing at Creators Syndicate, sums it up nicely: “The awfulness of “Argylle” is so nearly complete that one regrets even having to mention the movie’s release.” Ouch. He praises—and sympathizes with—the actors. As with every other critic, Loder wonders why on earth they gave Cavill that haircut.
Not everyone hated it, of course, though the critics that didn’t pan the movie gave it middling praise. Keith Garlington can carry the torch for the pro-Argylle camp. He writes:
“Argylle” sees Matthew Vaughn having a blast with the campy spy movie formula, taking its many tropes and stretching them to absurd limits. It results in something proudly ridiculous and consistently entertaining. The script is a little messy in spots and making sense out of some of its twists is nearly impossible. It’s also hampered by an unnecessarily long running time. But the steady humor and the big stylish action land well. And what a treat seeing Bryce Dallas Howard getting such a fun and meaty lead role. Pair her with the effortlessly charming Sam Rockwell and you have a duo I’ll follow on any mission.
As always, make up your own minds but buyer beware. If you’ve seen Argylle let me know what you thought of the film on Twitter and Facebook.
Check out my weekend streaming guide right here.