Metacritic (5/10), Letterboxd (2.5/5), Imdb.com (5/10), TMDB.com (2.5/5)

It’s disappointing when a film has an intriguing premise but fails to deliver the goods in the end. Such is the case with director Matthew Vaughn’s latest, an action-adventure/comedy about an author of spy novels (Bryce Dallas Howard) who stumbles into a real-life espionage scenario that matches the plot of her latest novel, embroiling her in a web of ever-shifting intrigue with various nefarious parties. The problem here is that the film never quite latches onto a dedicated focus to make the picture work. Some of the comic bits are indeed quite funny, but they frequently get bogged down by a meandering story line that’s trying to follow a more conventional, twist-laden thriller format. It leaves viewers asking, “So what’s it going to be?” There’s also more than a little derivative material thrown in, such as story threads we’ve already seen before in movies like “Romancing the Stone” (1984), “The Long Kiss Goodnight” (1996) and any number of James Bond flicks. While it’s true that this release is intended to be a spoof of these titles (especially in scenes featuring Henry Cavill as a hilariously hammy 007 knock-off), there’s a big difference between paying tribute and playing unrepentant copycat. Then there’s the picture’s excessive length, coming in at a bloated 2:19:00 runtime, far longer than it needs to be, a failing attributable to an often-needlessly complicated plot, one that begins to try audience patience at times, especially in the back half. “Argylle” also features a cute, cuddly cat, Alfie, as a central character (at least in its trailer), but, like the narrative overall, the film doesn’t quite seem to know what to do with the supposedly frisky, fickle feline, an impression far different from what’s conveyed in the picture’s video marketing. All of this is a shame, because this title has both potential and some apparent strengths going for it, such as a fine soundtrack, superbly choreographed action sequences, and an excellent ensemble cast with the likes of Sam Rockwell, Bryan Cranston, Catherine O’Hara, Ariana DeBose, and a seriously underused Richard E. Grant, not to mention fine turns from Howard and Cavill as alter-egos of one another. This one isn’t nearly as bad as many critics have made it out to be, but it could have been substantially better with some significant retooling and judicious editing. “Argylle” apparently has ambitions to become a new franchise, too, but we’ll have to see if that materializes based on what kind of box office draw it ultimately produces. At this point, though, I think it has its work cut out for it.