You can’t lie and say that Matthew Vaughn’s Argylle doesn’t at least look intriguing and bombastic from its trailer. The spy-action-comedy hybrid has always been fertile ground for twists. Allegiances get twisted, broken, and re-aligned in unexpected ways. Perhaps the bad guy is only a figurehead to the overarching evil figure behind them, or a death that occurs at the beginning of the narrative reveals itself. It’s all fair game, and Argylle certainly takes advantage of those inhibitions — perhaps a little too much. While the film boasts a healthy amount of fast-paced action, a cavalry of star power, and some charm, it overplays the twist card to the extent that it muddies its premise without guidance to anchor cohesiveness. It manages to be packed to the gills and weightless, all in the same motion.

Elly Conway (Bryce Dallas Howard) is a famous author of a series of spy books by the name of (you guessed it) Argylle (portrayed by Henry Cavill) with a devoted following. On the heels of her successful fourth novel, there are hints that a fifth is on the way. Fans of her wonder how she seems to write in such a way that is almost a carbon copy of world events. Nevertheless, she is at a loss for how to end the fifth book. Her mother, Ruth (Catherine O’Hara), nudges out a potential for being a cop out looking to go the cliffhanger route. Elly needs some fresh air, so she takes her beloved cat Alfie and goes to visit her parents for inspiration. On the train, she meets a shaggy bearded man named Aidan (Sam Rockwell), who happens to fancy the Argylle series himself. But Aiden is an actual spy and informs Elly that her life is in peril. Remember that I mentioned she has a penchant for her novelizations being art imitating life? Well, the evil entity of The Division just so happened to have an actual mirror. There is some information The Division has become privy to in this next novel they have to intercept before the members are found out.

That’s almost as grounded in Argylle as you will get because the rest of the film exists with one foot in reality and the other waiting to turn the audience upside down. The film discards a need to establish an equilibrium because it doesn’t desire the audience to get comfortable with the allure. However, the reliance on that as a device becomes disorienting at points. Within the first significant fight sequence on the train, Elly starts to see the fictional version of Argylle personified in Aidan’s actions. Early on, it works because both Cavill and Rockwell can put their personality into what’s happening. Cavill’s Argylle is slightly more cartoonish, while Rockwell’s Aidan is skilled, but feels the physicality of punches and kicks. As the film rolls out, there’s little differentiation between these two worlds as combat happens at an extraordinary pace. The veil between what is supposed to be accurate and what is not becomes razor-thin and protrudes into the many later turns.

As far as the cast, it boasts an impressive roster of Bryan Cranston, John Cena, Dua Lipa, Samuel L. Jackson, Ariana DeBose, and Sofia Boutella, to name a few. Howard and Rockwell’s characters are the ones the audience will stay with the most; for the most part, they work off of one another as an espionage veteran and a novice to this world. Many of the beats tend to repeat themselves, where Aidan gets Elly to push herself to do a dangerous stunt or conquer fear on the way to finding the ultimate MacGuffin while the bad guys either watch their location or try to beat them. Many of the special guests sporadically appear like story threads that are before them. In the spirit of Argylle, I will not divulge the (varying, sometimes never-ending) rabbit hole of magic tricks it shows. Within all the smoke, colors, and different degrees of action, perhaps there was a vision to spoof the James Bond franchise much like Austin Powers did with a stylist and updated coat of paint. Argylle knows what it wants to appear to be, but not so much what it wants to be.