by Rob DiCristino
There was a period in the early 2010s when it seemed as though Matthew Vaughn was poised to spark a new renaissance of R-rated action comedies. The one-two punch of Kick-Ass and Kingsman: The Secret Service, especially, felt like a cunning blend of Quentin Tarantino’s genre savvy and Guy Ritchie’s slick and satisfying kinetic sensibilities. Those early Vaughn films (including more earnest exercises like Layer Cake and X-Men: First Class) had a cheeky self-awareness that was nonetheless genuine in its ultimate delivery; Vaughn was clearly a well-studied cinephile eager to take his favorite genres to the next level. He was one of us. An acolyte. A believer. There was a whiff of Joe Rogan-y aggro bullshit here and there (Especially in that first Kingsman movie, which lacks the political fluency that god gave to Reese’s peanut butter cups), but Vaughn seemed to be fighting the good fight in those days when the Marvel Cinematic Universe was dominant, giving us new and (mostly) unique cinematic treats that would surely age into neo-cult classics.
But the metatextual insanity doesn’t end there! After a boisterous cold open that pits the suave Agent Argylle (Henry Cavill) and his partner (John Cena as Wyatt) against LaGrange (Dua Lipa) and the evil Directorate, Argylle reveals that author Elly Conway (Bryce Dallas Howard) is actually reading these exploits from her latest bestseller. As she struggles with ideas for her next volume, she’s confronted by the mysterious Aidan (Sam Rockwell), a real life secret agent who believes the fate of the world may depend on that next masterwork. He and handler Alfie (Samuel L. Jackson) are on the hunt for a MacGuffin that will reveal the existence of the Directorate (Or the Division. I don’t remember. Bryan Cranston runs it) to the world, and Conway must write the next chapter to uncover its location. Along the way, the mild-mannered Conway will discover her forgotten past, meet figures of international intrigue (like Sofia Boutella’s aptly-named Secret Keeper), and find an equilibrium between the real world and the one blossoming from her imagination.
The distractingly-misspelled Argylle hits theaters today.