Director: David Kerr
Cast: Rowan Atkinson, Ben Miller, Olga Kurylenko, Jake Lacy, Emma Thompson
Runtime: 1 hr 29 mins
Released By: UIP
Opening Day: 20 September 2018
Synopsis: JOHNNY ENGLISH STRIKES AGAIN is the third installment of the Johnny English comedy series, with Rowan Atkinson returning as the much loved accidental secret agent. The new adventure begins when a cyber-attack reveals the identity of all active undercover agents in Britain, leaving Johnny English as the secret service’s last hope. Called out of retirement, English dives head first into action with the mission to find the mastermind hacker. As a man with few skills and analogue methods, Johnny English must overcome the challenges of modern technology to make this mission a success.
No other comedian is as universally beloved as Rowan Atkinson – especially his slapstick pratfalls and rubbery expressions as Mr Bean – and it was with the aim of capturing some of that appeal which led to the creation of the bumbling English secret agent Johnny English fifteen years ago. Both the 2003 original and its 2011 sequel ‘Johnny English Reborn’ were nowhere near classics, but provided enough diverting entertainment as harmless James Bond parody. It is indeed with that same objective in mind that TV veteran turned first-time feature film director David Kerr and original ‘Johnny English’ writer William Davies have decided to give the character yet another go, and as long as your expectations of this third outing remain the same as the previous two, you’ll find Atkinson’s reprise just as pleasing and delightful as ever.
The throwaway excuse to bring English back into action is a cyber attack on MI7, which compromises the identities of all serving agents. In consultation with Emma Thompson’s frazzled Prime Minister, the head of the intelligence service (Adam James) calls in a bunch of retired agents including English, although an accident with a pen cap that is a stun grenade in disguise causes English to knock out the rest of his counterparts (including cameos by legendary actors Charles Dance and Michael Gambon). English is reunited with his sidekick Bough (Ben Miller) from the first movie, and in decidedly analogue style, chooses a bright red vintage Aston Martin as his vehicle of choice as well as an array of old-fashioned gadgets like exploding Jelly Babies and green/red pills over high-tech ones such as a smart phone.
As is typical of such spoofs, the plot is only in service of the various set-pieces, each of which are executed by Atkinson with sheer aplomb. An early one has English and Bough pretending to be waiters at a fine dining restaurant in the French countryside, where English not only ruins the meal of flambé prawns for an innocent patron but burns down the entire place before the evening is over. Another starts with him activating the shoebox inflatable raft inside their car, and continues with them attracting the wrong sort of attention walking up the side of a luxury yacht with magnetic boots. Yet another sees him deploy a guided missile to take out a bunch of French cyclists blocking his way while on a circuitous mountain chase of a mysterious Russian Bond-named femme fatale Ophelia Bulletova (Olga Kurylenko). Each of these sequences are packed with hijinks and goofy shenanigans, which the filmmakers are all too aware is the point of their film.
We haven’t yet described the three hilarious show-pieces – the first sees English flailing at impressing Ophelia at a hotel bar, before taking to the dance floor on speed while Ophelia tries to take him out; the second has English donning a virtual reality helmet and confusing the real world with the artificial, wrecking havoc on innocent bystanders in a bookstore, a deli and atop an open top London Big Bus; and the third has English trying to stop the villain at a G12 meeting held in an ancient Scottish castle with an exoskeleton body suit and then in a clunky suit of armour. If we haven’t yet mentioned who the bad guy is, that’s because he is pretty much inconsequential; but let’s just say that there happens to be a certain Silicon Valley billionaire (Jake Lacy) who seems all too eager to sell his services to the British government in order to gain access to a treasure trove of data across the public service.
If it isn’t yet obvious, ‘Johnny English Strikes Again’ exists for one reason and one reason only – that is, to watch Atkinson stumble from one ridiculous situation to another before finally by some ‘deus ex machina’ manage to save the world from total annihilation. And we are not shy to say that we lapped up every bit of Atkinson’s slapstick routines, his flair for physical comedy just as sharp and alive as before. Sure, Kurylenko adds some sex appeal and Thompson seems to be having a blast as the cluelessly beleaguered Prime Minister, but Atkinson has always and remains the undisputed star of his own show. Really, his appeal is simple, straightforward and yet ageless, so don’t bother trying to find fault with the simplistic plot or the other underdeveloped characters – just sit back, relax and enjoy Atkinson’s comedic stunts, which is more than enough to leave us with a huge grin by the time the credits roll.
(As pleasing and delightful as watching Rowan Atkinson's slapstick routines ever was, this third James Bond spoof outing will leave you grinning, laughing and even occasionally splitting your side)
Review by Gabriel Chong