Richard Bellis

Johnny English Strikes Again: film review (with spoilers)

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He’s back! But is he at his best?

I was surprised to hear there would be another Johnny English film. I was even more surprised to find out that it was actually quite good: it’s rare for spy spoof comedies to maintain their level of quality.

The film uses the same sort of jokes as most people expect from Rowan Atkinson’s work, though even where they are predictable, they’re still funny. Atkinson, of course, is a master of physical comedy: his actions and facial expressions are top drawer again here. On the whole, the humour is a little more toned down and aimed for kids: there are no scenes of English dancing on graves this time!

The plot is quite stupid, though at least has its foundation in the problems of the modern world.

A hacker has released every M.I.7 agent’s details and four ex-MI7 agents (with cameos from Charles Dance, Michael Gambon and Edward Fox) are relied upon to stop him. Unfortunately, Johnny English accidentally stun grenades them, meaning he’s the only man for the job.

This was funny but a slight waste of their talents. If you have big names, use them for more than cameos!

English requests he be placed with his old sidekick, Boff (Ben Miller). It’s great to see the two back on screen together. English informs MI7 he likes to do things the old-fashioned way, which means no fancy new gadgets, just a gun, and a classic Aston Martin, neatly parodying the over-reliance on gadgets and technology in the spy genre. English is old school and thinks he can come out of retirement and pick up where he left off, gadget wise, not realising how fast technology moves.

Hilarities ensue on the mission as English proceeds to burn down a French restaurant, board a yacht and assault the people on board and blow up some French cyclists. He finds a Russian agent named Ophelia who appears to be working for the hackers but turns out to be a double agent. This is a good twist and works well.

We find out that the main villain causing all the hacks is ‘Jason’ (played by Jake Lacey), a tech wizard from Silicone valley. He is causing the hacks so that world governments give him control of the internet. He isn’t as memorable as previous villains like Pascal Savage or the Killer Cleaner.

English is taught the wonders of virtual reality as he is shown a computer model of Jason’s house. Unfortunately, he ends up walking around London with the virtual reality set on assaulting people as he goes. When I saw this in the trailer I was worried it wouldn’t work well but I was very surprised to find that it was one of the best scenes in the film.

The real break in fails and gives way to car chase scene in which English hijacks a learner driver car, taking over from the instructor making her do handbreak turns.  This is hilarious and very cleverly done.

The climax is funny as English saves the day by accident, firing a missile at the villain’s boat. English, at this point stuck in a suit of armour, calls in a warhead from the submarine behind him using a mobile phone, creating a very surreal and visually funny scene.

I would have like to have seen a stronger, more memorable villain and maybe some ties to the previous two films, perhaps returning casts such as Rosamond Pike or Daniel Kaluuya – or at least some reference to them.

Also, the budget seemed to have run out near the end of the film: it was set in Scotland yet the background looked green-screen. Perhaps the money went on all the scenes in France.

In conclusion, Johnny English Strikes Again is a decent film, though not as good as the first one. It tries its hardest to keep things fresh but does reuse jokes from previous Rowan Atkinson material.

You’ll certainly get a laugh out of it and it will keep you busy during its short run-time (1 hour 30 mins).

 

 

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