Johnny English Strikes Again
dir David Kerr
scr William Davies
prd Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Chris Clark
with Rowan Atkinson, Emma Thompson, Olga Kurylenko, Jake Lacy, Ben Miller, Adam James, Miranda Hennessy, Pippa Bennett-Warner, Irena Tyshyna, Adam Greaves-Neal, Michael Gambon, Charles Dance
release UK 5.Oct.18, US 26.Oct.18
18/UK Universal 1h28
Johnny English Strikes Again
Spy vs spy: Kurylenko and Atkinson

thompson lacy miller
Johnny English (2003) Johnny English Reborn (2011)
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Johnny English Strikes Again After another seven-year-gap, Rowan Atkinson is back as his spy alter-ego for another spoof adventure. Perhaps reflecting the times, this episode has more edge, muting the idiocy for a more knowing style of pastiche. Yes, there are still plenty of deeply silly gags, but they're not stretched beyond the breaking point this time. So the film is good fun if you're not expecting too much.

After a cyber attack unmasks all of MI7's secret agents, top boss Pegasus (James) is forced to recall retiree Johnny (Atkinson) to find out who's behind it. Heading to the French Riviera with sidekick Bough (Miller), Johnny crosses paths with Russian spy Ophelia (Kurylenko) as the trail leads to Silicon Valley billionaire Jason (Lacy). The problem is that Jason has been kissing up to the now-smitten British Prime Minister (Thompson), quietly causing chaos to get all of the UK's systems into his server before launching a bigger plan involving the world.

Coherent both as a spy movie and a comedy, this is produced to a high standard and edited ruthlessly, leaping away from each joke before it gets stale. This means that the best punchlines have a throwaway feel, which adds to the comedic atmosphere while never undercutting the story itself. The best gags involve wordplay and inadvertent acts of heroism; the worst centre on slapstick or humiliation. The only one that outstays its welcome is the climactic suit of armour.

As always, Atkinson is an expert at appearing oblivious. Johnny never seems to have a clue what's happening, mixing some adept sleuthing with lots of accidental mayhem. Much of this would never work with anyone else in the role: Atkinson is singularly gifted at endearingly playing someone who sees himself as a hero, even though he clearly isn't one. Miller is a superb straight man alongside him. Kurylenko embraces her character's murderously sexy vibe. And Thompson is hilarious as the flustered and bamboozled PM, which is eerily recognisable.

The script is packed with funny touches, from Johnny's subversive geography lessons to his resolutely analog approach in a digital world (things like faxes and payphones get witty nods). His gadgets are refreshingly old-school, and properly ridiculous as well, leading to a few goofy set-pieces that may not be very sophisticated but are good for a few giggles. And along the way, a subtle skewering of online society and bullheaded politicians adds a hint of subtext to the otherwise inane wackiness.

cert pg themes, language, violence 30.Sep.18

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