In commemoration of the release of the upcoming sequel, JOHNNY ENGLISH STRIKES AGAIN (2018), I have decided to review the previous entries. For my review of the original flick, click the following link: JOHNNY ENGLISH (2003).
Here’s the cast. Starring, we have Rowan Atkinson (LOVE ACTUALLY  and THE LION KING ), Gillian Anderson (THE SPY WHO DUMPED ME , and upcoming films UFO  and THE SUNLIT NIGHT ), Rosamund Pike (BEIRUT , A UNITED KINGDOM , and upcoming films A PRIVATE WAR  and THREE SECONDS ), Dominic West (TOMB RAIDER , MONEY MONSTER , and STAR WARS: PHANTOM ), and Daniel Kaluuya (BLACK PANTHER , GET OUT , SICARIO , and the upcoming WIDOWS ).
Now for the crew. Directing, we have Oliver Parker, known for stuff I’ve either not seen or heard of. Penning the screenplay is Hamish McColl, known for PADDINGTON (2014). Composing the score is Ilan Eshkeri, known for COLLIDE (2017), SHAUN THE SHEEP (2015), STARDUST (2007), and the upcoming THE WHITE CROW (2018). The cinematographer is Danny Cohen, known for DISOBEDIENCE (2018), VICTORIA & ABDUL (2017), FLORENCE FOSTER JENKINS (2016), ROOM (2015), and the upcoming THE KING OF THIEVES (2018). Finally, the editor is Guy Bensley, known for stuff I’ve either never seen or heard of.
The last movie didn’t blow me away, so I can’t say that I’m looking forward to this one.
This is my honest opinion of: JOHNNY ENGLISH REBORN
Set five years after the events of the first movie. After botching a mission resulting in the death of a foreign politician that he was supposed to protect, MI7’s top agent Johnny English (Rowan Atkinson) was relieved from duty and has spent his time training with warrior monks. In the present day, MI7 has a new mission: protect the Chinese Premier from assassination by an assassin known only as Vortex, and Johnny is brought in to save him. Johnny comes out of retirement and gladly accepts his mission, alongside his new sidekick, Agent Tucker (Daniel Kaluuya). In Hong Kong, they encounter an ex-CIA agent who reveals that Vortex is actually a group of assassins, and that he was one of them. He’s killed off, but English survives and is on the hunt for the remaining assassins.
What in blazes happened here?! I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I actually kind of liked this one. Well, what do you know about that?
I am going to do my very best to describe why this movie worked so much better than the first one. For one thing, the humor is so much better. That might go without saying, but for the most part, the jokes are much better thought out. There’s a fight scene between Johnny and this assassin guy in Hong Kong, who is crazy skilled, jumping around and doing flips, doing all sorts of cool stunts, a far cry from the blandness of the first movie. The assassin starts climbing down a wall of bamboo, but instead of trying to pursue him that way, Johnny simply takes an elevator and somehow manages to keep up with him every step of the way. It’s presented in such a funny way.
Here’s a shocking turn, Johnny is actually a competent fighter here. Yeah, his training with the warrior monks actually makes him hold off four enemies at once. The action is certainly slapstick, and relatively literally considering that the assassin uses a bamboo trunk to attack Johnny, but who doesn’t love slapstick? Even baby-faced Kaluuya is a hilarious addition to the roster of characters. I never knew he had it in him. Can’t say if I like him more or less than Bough, but Kaluuya is a tad more memorable, if only because of his current popularity thanks to GET OUT.
More than just the surprisingly funny and competent fight scenes, there’s a level of creativity to some aspects as well, mostly involving the Killer Cleaner (Pik Sen Lim) and fun arsenal of weapons. A spray bottle loaded with, what I can only assume to be, pepper spray, a sniper rifle made from golf clubs, a minigun disguised as a golf bag, and even Johnny gets a tiny pistol disguised as a thing of lipstick. This is James Bond parody that I was waiting for from the first movie. This one does it so much better. It’s not always consistent and I sure wish that there was more of it, but the fact that they got so much right makes me more than happy. And oh my god, that suped up wheelchair chase scene was absolutely priceless and had me going the entire time. Seriously, bravo, movie.
But, with all my gushing about the comedy that worked, I’d be lying if I said there weren’t things that didn’t work. Not everything was a home run.
I shouldn’t be too harsh on a PG-rated movie’s chosen comedic style, but similar to the first flick, it’s occasionally too childish and stupid. There’s a bit where Johnny accidentally pushes Pegasus’ cat out of a window. Attempting to cover for his actions, he keeps his back to Pegasus and mimes having the cat in his arms. Somehow, though, Pegasus thinks that his shady movements are somehow not suspicious, despite how much smarter she’s supposed to be than him. It’s a little frustrating that this humor is repeated with zero finesse. There’s also another bit where Johnny spots the Killer Cleaner in MI7 headquarters, attempts to chase her, but mistakes Pegasus’ similar-looking mother, twice. The moment the joke is set up, you know exactly where it’s going to go. Predictability is the bane of all comedy and this movie barely tries to hide it sometimes.
You know how comedies, especially action comedies, have a tendency to add a fake-out death scene that lasts a long time? Where the character in question seems to pass on only to come back briefly, then slip away again, then come back again, and possibly do this a couple more times before either actually dying off or realizing that they’re not dying at all? It’s usually not that funny, but I’m sure you know what I’m talking about. Well, some freakin’ how, this movie has arguably the best execution of it that I’ve ever seen. The Cleaner Assassin has just shot Karlenko (Mark Ivanir) and he’s dying as Johnny and Tucker try and get him to the hospital. He does the shtick of dying and coming back and then dying officially, of course, but when he comes back, he reveals that the third Vortex assassin is in MI7. Weirdly enough, the movie doesn’t play this for comedy, even though it feel like it should, but it does play a part in the movie, and is pretty crucial. I should be saying that it’s a tonally confused “joke” but I found it compelling that it’s not drawn out, and it serves a real purpose in the overall narrative. It’s weird, but I strangely love this moment.
Overall, this is a vast improvement over the original. Sure, it isn’t without it’s stupid and unfunny humor, and there is a disappointingly large amount of it, but when the comedy works, it really worked for me. It’s no modern classic, but this had some fun, rewatchable moments for me. I enjoyed it and I urge anyone to give this a shot.
My honest rating for JOHNNY ENGLISH REBORN: a strong 3/5