How much you laughed at the first two Johnny English films will be a good barometer for your enjoyment level of this belated third mission. Strikes Again does little to break from the series’ established formula of telegraphed misunderstandings and slapstick violence.
This time, Rowan Atkinson’s English – now working as a geography teacher – is thrust back into active duty after a cyber attack on MI7 leaks the identities of every serving agent. As he and sidekick Bough (a returning Ben Miller) opt to go low-tech with their gadgetry, there are some nice gags regarding the intelligence service’s move from guns and Aston Martins to tablets and hybrid cars. A classic scene of Johnny English farce involves him accidentally wearing a VR headset on the streets of London, causing real-life mayhem which he believes is contained to a training room.
An overarching theme is this clash of the old school and a brave new world of algorithms and voice assistants – and there’s even a comment on the perils of tech firms gaining too much power. However, Johnny will soon be along to fall down some stairs while wearing a suit of armour.
It goes without saying that the plot is stupid. The forgettable villain (you’ll know who it is on first sight) basically plans to hold the world’s governments to ransom or he’ll turn off the internet. Olga Kurylenko adds some dazzle as a Russian spy, but it’s difficult not to feel her career’s taken a turn, to go from Bond girl to “English girl”.
Atkinson does his physical comedy schtick incredibly well, and there are several laugh-out-loud moments and reasonable action among the familiar story beats and ropey CGI. While you could never call this a good film, it’s an entertaining diversion for 90 minutes if this is your thing.
CAST: Rowan Atkinson, Olga Kurylenko, Ben Miller, Jake Lacy, Emma Thompson
DIRECTOR: David Kerr
WRITER: William Davies
SYNOPSIS: Five days before the PM is to host her first G12 summit, MI7’s security is breached and every agent in the field identified and exposed. The only hope of finding the perpetrator is to bring an agent out of retirement, but with most of them either dead or close to it, the head of MI7 is left with only one choice.