By John Mulderig
The fish-out-of-water action comedy Argylle (Universal) starts off promisingly and its initial twists and turns sustain audience interest.
By multiplying these complications and reversals, however, screenwriter Jason Fuchs eventually reaps diminishing returns.
Still, director Matthew Vaughn’s breezy spoof remains, overall, at least modestly entertaining. Despite the intensity of some of its dust-ups, moreover, it’s suitable for a broad swath of grown moviegoers.
Mild-mannered author Elly Conway (Bryce Dallas Howard) has managed to hit paydirt with a series of popular spy novels featuring the suave, James Bond-like character of the title (played, in her imagination, by Henry Cavill). But when it comes to real life, she seeks nothing more adventurous than a cozy evening at home with her beloved cat, Alfie.
So when Aidan (Sam Rockwell), a stranger she meets on a train, informs her that he’s a secret agent and that all the other passengers aboard their railcar are disguised assassins out to kill her, Elly is more than a little surprised. But the second statement soon proves to be true, forcing Elly to rely on her new acquaintance’s protection.
Once they’re both safe, Aiden explains that the plots of Elly’s books involving a sinister band of rogue operatives have tracked too closely to covert reality. That makes her a target for her fictional organisation’s factual counterpart, The Division, and its villainous leader, Ritter (Bryan Cranston).
A globetrotting quest marked by various surprises follows. But by the time the movie wraps up, its tale of hidden identities and shifting loyalties has become intricate to the point of rococo excess.
The film contains frequent stylised but sometimes harsh violence, several uses of profanity, numerous milder oaths, about a dozen crude terms and some crass language.
The OSV News classification is A-III — adults. The Motion Picture Association rating is PG-13 — parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.