Johnny English Strikes Again 4K Blu-ray Review
"You have to get up pretty early in the morning to outwit British Intelligence."
Johnny English Strikes Again Film Review
Some 15 years after the original, Rowan Atkinson returns to one of his two defining film franchises for more James Bond spoof antics.One of the relatively rare British comics who has been able to transcend - and indeed translate - his TV work to conquer the Big Screen, Atkinson's bumbling antics - part Buster Keaton, part Peter Sellers' Inspector Clouseau - are veritably timeless.
Whilst arguably his work in Mr Bean (and before that Blackadder) has often been better regarded, the Johnny English series was still a good channel for his particular comic genius, overtly riffing on Bond (not least because it was created by the writers of the last 6 Bond films) and playing out like a spy version of Sellars' police Inspector Clouseau - the utterly oblivious and totally incompetent man that nobody wants on the case.
The franchise was never groundbreaking in the first place, and Strikes Again is hardly an exception, but fans will know precisely what to expect
Finally fully aware of just how unreliable English was as a secret agent, it has to be a pretty extreme emergency for MI7 to call upon the retired agent's services, but when a computer hacker exposes every single active operative, that's precisely what happens, with English drafted back in to an all-new MI7, complete with hybrid cars, no gadgets or guns, and a whole lot of forms to fill in. Going 'analogue', he heads to France, gets embroiled with a Russian spy, and uncovers a cyber conspiracy. All by accident, of course.
Despite the fact that Johnny English Strikes Again - and arguably the majority of the entire series of films - is hardly non-stop laugh-out-loud material, there's something undeniably endearing about a harmless fun family outing of this nature. It's well-played, aiming for silly slapstick laughs and occasionally even making the most of Atkinson's superior wit, taking a globetrotting poke at Bond and bringing back fond memories of the Pink Panther series (not just in the title, but also in little touches like when he attempts a faux French accent, or even the entire castle finale). Some of the more subtle jokes are actually pretty sharp (English's reply to the French waitress), whilst others have arguably been spoiled by over-use in the trailers, but the broad comedy still provides some undeniable family fun, and it's a solid effort for a directorial debut from David Kerr.
Bond girl Olga Kurylenko (Quantum of Solace) looks like she hasn't aged a day, Emma Thompson has a ball as the PM, and Ben Miller returns as English's beleaguered partner-in-crime, Bough, and there are also a few nice early cameos from familiar faces as other retired agents. But it's Atkinson's baby, and he returns smoothly to the role, belying the time that has passed since the last outing (and even going full Mr. Bean in one hilarious scene involving bar nuts) even if he is admittedly not at the top of his game here. The franchise was never groundbreaking in the first place, and Strikes Again is hardly an exception, but fans will know precisely what to expect.
Johnny English Strikes Again 4K PictureJohnny English Strikes Again comes to UK Ultra HD Blu-ray courtesy of Universal, who curiously appear to have delayed (or more likely even cancelled) the US 4K release of this title. Although shot by a Red Epic Dragon at resolutions of up to 6K, it's more than likely this has ended up capped by a 2K Digital Intermediate, but nevertheless the release delivers frequently impressive video.
The disc presents a native 3840 x 2160p resolution image utilising the film's original theatrical aspect ratio of widescreen 2.40:1. It uses 10-bit video depth, a Wide Colour Gamut (WCG) and High Dynamic Range (HDR), and is encoded using the HEVC (H.265) codec.
We reviewed the UK Ultra HD Blu-ray release of Johnny English Strikes Again on a LG 55B7 Dolby Vision 4K Ultra HD OLED TV with an LG UP970 Dolby Vision 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray player.
Frequently excellent video
As you would perhaps only expect from a modern digitally shot feature, this third feature in the series (with the smallest budget, however) looks suitably glossy and impressive, boasting strong close up detail on faces, clothing and backgrounds, whilst avoiding the pitfalls which, increasingly, are more associated with the Blu-ray versions and largely avoided on the 4K variation.
Strikes Again is no exception, perhaps struggling slightly with a few misty scenes in the final act, but for the most part holding up without distracting digital defects. Of course it's the HDR and WCG that really make the difference, giving further depth to darker sequences, illuminating shadow detail, and making the more vibrant tones pop - the Aston Martin looks even more striking here, and the John Wick-style club lighting definitely hits the right visual notes.
Johnny English Strikes Again 4K SoundJohnny English Strikes Again enjoys the same object-based 3D High Definition immersive audio track that adorns the Blu-ray release (and the US BD release), with an excellent DTS:X track that delivers the goods, sparking up the explosive spy antics and Bond satire thrills with an engulfing aural ride.
An excellent DTS:X track that delivers the goods
Although it's an outright comedy series, the Johnny English films have always boasted some fun action setpieces - in the Bond vein that it is sending up - and this third outing is no exception, lapping up explosive frivolity courtesy of Johnny's tricked-out Aston Martin, some nifty virtual reality chaos, and plenty of final act craziness. The track brings all of these moments to wonderful life, drawing you into the mostly Johnny-instigated mayhem, and enhancing the pay-off jokes no end.
Whilst it's not exactly subtle during these scenes, it is capable of subtlety, bringing signs of fine observation during the quieter moments, and crafting a welcome atmosphere throughout. Dialogue of course remains a priority, given clear and coherent dissemination predominately across the frontal array, and the score (including some fun dance tracks in the club sequence) does a great job of both highlighting the spy-based hijinks and giving this fantastic audio track yet more superb material to play with.
Johnny English Strikes Again 4K ExtrasThe extras package, whilst hardly extensive, is still reasonably decent, headlined by an Audio Commentary, which looks behind the story, script and production, and has director David Kerr on reasonably honest form, reflecting on his debut work here.
The extras package, whilst hardly extensive, is still reasonably decent
The Commentary is supported by a series of small Featurettes which look behind the franchise's history, Atkinson's comedy genius, his supporting cast, the locations, cars, gadgets and key virtual reality scene.
Johnny English Strikes Again 4K VerdictThe Johnny English franchise has always provided harmless family fun - fans know exactly what to expect
The Johnny English film franchise has never been known for being electric entertainment, but it's always provided light, harmless family fun - and franchise fans will know exactly what to expect. It certainly doesn't feel like 15 years has passed since the first outing.
Universal's UK home releases include this 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray package which, curiously (or perhaps unsurprisingly given that Strikes Again was downplayed on its Stateside run and clearly more intended for international - and UK - audiences) looks to have been cancelled in the US. This leaves this release, with strong video and excellent audio, as well as a few nice extras, an even more attractive package for fans to pick up.
Our Review Ethos
To comment on what you've read here, click the Discussion tab and post a reply.