Johnny English Strikes Again

Rowan Atkinson has successfully lived by the quote ‘if you’re onto a good thing, stick to it’. The actor known for his work on the ‘Blackadder’ and ‘Mr Bean’ TV series has revisited those characters multiple times. He’s also appeared as clumsy secret agent Johnny English twice before with ‘Johnny English Strikes Again’ offering him another ride on the comedic merry-go-round. A 21st Century version of the ‘Pink Panther’ series, Atkinson’s clueless agent returns for another lukewarm adventure.

When a cyber-attack reveals the identity of every British undercover agent, the government led by the Prime Minister (Emma Thompson) is in a quandary. Their only hopes are retired secret agent Johnny English (Rowan Atkinson) and his partner-in-spying Angus (Ben Miller). Reluctantly asking for their aid to search for the hacker, the government keeps its fingers crossed English will get the job done. Whether he does it well is another matter with English’s miniscule intelligence an ongoing barrier in cracking the case.

‘Johnny English Strikes Again’ is an amiable farce in the Peter Sellers tradition. Under David Kerr’s strong direction the comedy effortlessly flows onto the next silly sequence. Thankfully this entry is mostly devoid of the toilet humour seen previously. This allows for more wit and effort in creating laughs. That doesn’t mean it’s the best comedy around but it provides a pleasant diversion from the world’s ills.

Atkinson is the star of the show and the script utilises his skills wisely. With his very expressive face, Atkinson’s fearlessness in diving into any comedic situation is evident. His scenes with the equally talented Miller are a highlight with Thompson a solid addition. Their comic timing is superb with the stunts and outlandish action adding to the fun. Unlike the ‘Pink Panther’ and ‘Austin Powers’ series, the laughs are consistent with the aim for a stronger script notable.

Unlike other recent comedies ‘Johnny English Strikes Again’ doesn’t delve into crudity or stereotypes for its humour. It’s a decent mirth maker without being amazing. The third time is the charm in this case although it shouldn’t surprise many if a fourth instalment surfaces knowing Atkinson’s enthusiasm for constantly returning to the well of his well-worn characters.

Rating out of 10: 6

The Predator

‘The Predator’ is the fourth entry in the sci-fi action series. Beginning with the Arnold Schwarzenegger starring vehicle in 1987, the ‘Predator’ franchise has gained an ardent following. Whilst it hasn’t been consistently striking with a few uneven entries, the series’ deadly aliens have endured. Also appearing in two ‘Alien vs Predator’ movies, the franchise reboots itself once again. Directed by Shane Black, who starred in the first Schwarzenegger movie, he lovingly shows how the beasts’ wicked arsenal is enough to wipe out any weaponised armada.

When alien predators invade a small town, a group of mercenaries led by Quinn (Boyd Holbrook) fight to protect it. Among Quinn’s team are Nebraska (Trevante Rhodes) and Quinn’s autistic son Rory (Jacob Tremblay) who has mysterious powers that can defeat them. Ready for battle against the fierce otherworldly creatures, Quinn aims to stand against whatever savage force they all face.

‘The Predator’ is a generally disappointing entry. Whilst the CGI is eye-popping and the action sequences are well handled, Black’s direction lets things down. Given how talented the performers are and the series’ mythology, the resulting enterprise falls flat. Black fails to bring a sense of urgency with Quinn and company strolling through events and quipping jokes than diving into the horrific events surrounding them.

The script feels as if it’s been handled by committee, with an unfocused tonal direction pulling the film in too many areas. The sketchily drawn characters and predictable story make ‘The Predator’ humdrum viewing. The excitement level only barely registers with the film not having the courage of its convictions. The whole movie feels like a vehicle to sell more toys than a genuine entry into an ongoing series.

The law of diminishing returns has crept up on ‘The Predator’. Less is usually more when it comes to sequels but if there’s money to be made, then Hollywood will keep churning them out. The lack of bite seen in this middling instalment makes ‘The Predator’ more of a toothless tiger than a fearsome creature from another galaxy.

Rating out of 10: 5