REVIEW: Johnny English Strikes Again (2018)
This 2018 British comedy, the third installment in the Johnny English franchise, is directed by David Kerr and stars Rowan Atkinson, Ben Miller, Olga Kurylenko, Adam James, Jake Lacy, and Emma Thompson.
When MI7, and soon the whole of the United Kingdom, come under attack from a mysterious cyber-terrorist, all modern forms of surveillance and espionage is made redundant. MI7 chief Pegasus (James) and the Prime Minister (Thompson) bring an “old school agent” out of retirement.
Johnny English (Atkinson) and fellow agent Bough (Miller) are tasked to hunt down the source of the terrorist threat and find out who is behind the crippling attacks on the country. Their investigation takes them to the South of France, London, and Scotland.
English and Bough come up against the mysterious Russian Ophelia Bulletova (Kurylenko) and the brilliant techno-billionaire Jason Volta (Lacy). English must use “old school” espionage to unmask the terrorist behind the attacks and save not just Queen and Country, but the entire world…
15 years since Rowan Atkinson’s former credit card advert creation Johnny English hit the big screen going up against John Malkovich, and 7 years since his return to go up against Dominic West, now he is back to take down Jake Lacy. A real international bout of villains that continue to mirror the world of 007.
It’s clear that English returns to action as the world sniffs once more around espionage and spy films. 2003 saw the uncertain future of James Bond. 2011 was mid James Bond / Daniel Craig fever. 2018 sees ‘Mission: Impossible – Fallout‘ reignite the spy genre with new levels set on action, stunts, humour and star quality.
But they’re all so…big and bold and brutal! Rowan Atkinson brings forward his fictional MI7 agent in another round of family-friendly goofs and gags, slapstick antics, face gurning, mumbling and dead-pan comedy of which Atkinson is a master of. It’s just a shame he’s not given MORE to flex his comedy muscles because we’ve seen this all before. Not that it’s a bad thing – if you are still on board with the series for this third outing, you know what to expect and it’s not ‘Casino Royale’.
When bullets and bombs are replaced with baguettes and blow-pipe breadsticks, this is nothing but silly fun in an all too serious world we live in. Cyber terrorism is the narrative here, and perfect reasoning for a spy who uses no cellular phone, no computer chipped car or other means of technology to get in and do the job. The story is actually very well thought out but nothing too taxing. It’s very basic, not very tense, but just the right sort of global-trekking jaunt you need for 85mins of silliness. However, there are a few great set pieces such as stylish Aston Martin driving across the South of France, a well-executed Scottish finale and virtual reality chaos across London.
Atkinson and Miller return as the original duo from 2003 and work just as well together as they did then. Support comes from former Bond girl Olga Kurylenko who is a perfect “is she/isn’t she” femme fatale. Lacy is our charming and glaringly obvious villain from the get-go, and Emma Thompson does her best “not Theresa May” version of a Theresa May-inspired Prime Minister. A good cast and plot that all work much better than ‘Johnny English Reborn’.
The silly laughs come thick and fast from Atkinson, whether he’s failing as a French waiter, failing to infiltrate a luxury yacht, failing to seduce a Russian spy or failing to…well, just failing at most things! Yet it’s that lovable, bumbling but self-assured delivery of physical and verbal comedy that won’t bust a gut with laughter, but certainly have you chuckling away.
The family-friendly themes running throughout are a forgotten gem in this day and age. If something comes across like this, then it’s seen as weak and stupid, but why shouldn’t audiences of all ages be allowed to watch things without swearing, violence, sex or gratuitous action. Tone things down, have some brainless fun for a while and just giggle away as you remember real life shouldn’t always be so serious, intense and loud.
Johnny English is the antidote to in-your-face Hollywood cinema excess, doing it in the most British way possible.
Directed by: David Kerr
Starring: Rowan Atkinson, Emma Thompson, Olga Kurylenko, Charles Dance, Jake Lacy, Ben Miller, Adam James