'Argylle' is getting panned by critics who are calling it 'exceedingly hollow' and 'unbearably smug'

'Argylle' is getting panned by critics who are calling it 'exceedingly hollow' and 'unbearably smug'
  • The reviews for Matthew Vaughn's "Argylle" are in.

  • The action film about an introverted spy novelist has a 36% critics score on Rotten Tomatoes.

  • Critics say the talented cast is underutilized and the plot twists are excessive.

Director Matthew Vaughn's latest film, "Argylle," has arrived — and critics aren't loving it.

The action movie stars Bryce Dallas Howard as Elly Conway, an introverted spy novelist who spends her evenings working on her successful book series, also called Argylle, with her cat Alfie by her side. But when her seemingly fictional novels about Agent Argylle (played by Henry Cavill) start predicting real-life events, she becomes the target of a covert spy organization called The Divison. Along the way, the identity of the real Agent Argylle is revealed in one of the film's many plot twists.

The film also includes a star-studded cast comprised of John Cena, Dua Lipa, Samuel L. Jackson, Bryan Cranston, Ariana DeBose, and more.

At the time of this article's publication, "Argylle" has a critics score of 36% on Rotten Tomatoes — a far cry from the 60% required to be deemed "fresh" on the review-aggregation site.

Critics are calling the movie "unbearably smug" and "an exceedingly hollow 139-minute feature film." Here's a rundown of the reviews.

Sam Rockwell is a standout as an unconventional spy, but most of the cast is underused.

Sam Rockwell as Aidan and Bryce Dallas Howard as Elly Conway in "Argylle."
Sam Rockwell as Aidan and Bryce Dallas Howard as Elly Conway in "Argylle."Peter Mountain/Universal Pictures, Apple Original Films, and MARV

"Sam Rockwell probably isn't anyone's idea of a suave secret agent, but that seems to be just the point for director Matthew Vaughn. He cast the 'Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri' Oscar winner against type and let him rip with a witty, eminently watchable performance that lets him steal every scene he is in." — Pete Hammond, Deadline

"Most of the other supporting players — especially Cena and Samuel L. Jackson as yet another shadowy covert operative — appear in just enough scenes to make you wish their roles were more than glorified bit parts." — Matt Singer, Screen Crush

"The overstuffed cast leaves legends like Samuel L. Jackson and Bryan Cranston mostly yelling in empty rooms." — Ben Travis, Empire

"One can almost see the actors itching for more." — Richard Lawson, Vanity Fair

"You may go into 'Argylle' wondering, per the film's curiosity-baiting tagline, who is the real Agent Argylle? But you'll assuredly leave with a different question: Shouldn't such a colossal waste of talent and precious time be illegal?" — David Fear, Rolling Stone

The movie lacks substance and suffers from a weak script.

Elly Conway (Bryce Dallas Howard) and Alfred Solomon (Samuel L. Jackson) in "Argylle," directed by Matthew Vaughn.
Elly Conway (Bryce Dallas Howard) and Alfred Solomon (Samuel L. Jackson) in "Argylle," directed by Matthew Vaughn.Peter Mountain/Universal Pictures, Apple Original Films, and MARV

"The whole thing feels like an overlong first draft without any darlings to kill." — Jesse Hassenger, IGN

"The problem with 'Argylle' is that everything about it — from its metatextual narrative, to its generic quips and clichéd twists — thinks it's exceptionally clever." — Hoai-Tran Bui, Inverse

"The feeling that we're seeing a photocopy of a photocopy arises in part from Jason Fuchs' screenplay, which could have been written by anyone with a hazy memory of a Bond film. Everywhere you look, there are details that need to be added, plot holes that need to be filled, and jokes that need to be improved." — Nicholas Barber, BBC

"Matthew Vaughn's 'Argylle' is a caper whose lack of charm prevents it from transcending the thinness of its high-concept premise." — Jake Cole, Slant Magzine

The plot twists are excessive, nonsensical, and at times, predictable.

Bryce Dallas Howard as Elly Conway in "Argylle."
Bryce Dallas Howard as Elly Conway in "Argylle."Universal Pictures

"It will have your head spinning trying to keep up with a far-too-busy set of characters playing mind games with us in a twisted scenario that spins out of control and wears out its welcome despite the efforts of Rockwell to ground it and a promising, original premise that just never feels completely fulfilled." — Pete Hammond, Deadline

"The one big twist is followed by a whole lot of smaller twists piled on one after the other, leading you to wonder if Vaughn and screenwriter Jason Fuchs ('Pan,' 'Wonder Woman') were purposefully trying to find the breaking point regarding an audience's tolerance for switcheroos." — David Fear, Rolling Stone

"'Argylle's' lack of surprise is enervating. Still, it's not as crushing as the lameness of its predictable twist." — Nick Schager, The Daily Beast

"The more each new twist is revealed and summarily falls flat, the faster the next one is slotted into place to get ahead of the story's anticlimax, leading to a spiral in which the plot becomes even more meaningless." — Jake Cole, Slant Magazine

Vaughn delivers inventive and exciting fight sequences — most of the time.

Henry Cavill as Agent Argylle in "Argylle."
Henry Cavill as Agent Argylle in "Argylle."Peter Mountain/Universal Pictures, Apple Original Films, and MARV

"The filmmaker does carry over his penchant for audacious action sequences, such as a reality-bending train brawl with Aidan and Argylle which is a joy." — Brian Truitt, USA Today

"The camera bends and contorts with each high kick, slow-mo is deployed at alternately clever and cheesy intervals, and fiction blends with reality in creative sequences in which Henry Cavill's fictional Agent Argylle smoothly enters and exits Elly's visions. Vaughn delivers some genuinely good visual tricks and gags, only to reuse them to the point of redundancy." — Hoai-Tran Bui, Inverse

The film's shoddy visual effects are particularly noticeable when it comes to Alfie the cat.

Elly Conway (Bryce Dallas Howard) and Alfie the Cat (Chip) in "Argylle."
Elly Conway (Bryce Dallas Howard) and Alfie the cat (Chip) in "Argylle."Universal Pictures, Apple Original Films, and MARV

"Everything feels phony, right down to Elly's beloved cat Alfie, who she totes everywhere in a yellow argyle backpack." — Matt Singer, Screen Crush

"Scenes involving Alfie the cat would be more adorable if the VFX around the cat wasn't rough around the edges." — Robert Daniels, Roger Ebert

"Appallingly unconvincing CGI is used for some of Alfie's stunts and presumably a few stand-in cats or even fakes in the many scenes where he's stuck inside that backpack, barely visible." — Leslie Felperin, The Hollywood Reporter

"Argylle" fails to live up to the glory achieved by Vaughn's 2014 film "Kingsman: The Secret Service."

Bryan Cranston as Ritter in "Argylle."
Bryan Cranston as Ritter in "Argylle."Peter Mountain/Universal Pictures, Apple Original Films, and MARV

"On the whole, 'Argylle' just isn't as exciting or refreshing as what Vaughn did with his stellar 'Kingsman: The Secret Service,' a tweak of the James Bond model that sent up the same tropes and cliches but in a more tongue-in-cheek manner." — Brian Truitt, USA Today

"'Argylle' aspires toward the same ridiculousness that made Vaughn's 'Kingsman' so much fun, but it trips over its high concept at every turn." — David Ehrlich, IndieWire

"We're long past the point when Vaughn's subversive stylings could have been considered fresh. Instead of coming off like the punk-rock disruptor he once might have been, Vaughn falls back on his greatest hits." — Hoai-Tran Bui, Inverse

"The erstwhile 'Kick-Ass' director has been trapped in 'Kingsman' mode for so long (going on a decade now) that it's starting to feel like we've lost him to that kind of live-action cartoon forever, cramming Gen Z James Bond riffs with disco music and over-the-top greenscreen shenanigans." — Peter Debruge, Variety

"'Argylle' had the potential to be a whipsmart parody. It unfortunately just seems to get tired of being the butt of the joke before it can deliver the punchline. But in attempting to avoid becoming a gag — laboring to connect this film with the 'Kingsman' franchise — Vaughn imbues his film with anonymity, making it merely forgettable." — Robert Daniels, Roger Ebert

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