Film review: Johnny English – One lives only three times

After the first James Bond Persiflage with cult comedian Rowan Atkinson appeared in 2003, nobody expected a sequel any more than it appeared on the scene. After all 8 years had passed since then, until English could make the cinemas unsafe again. You had to wait almost as long for the now starting third part of the row. But has anyone been waiting for this? And if so, was it worth it?


After his previous dubious exploits, Johnny English is in early retirement. When all active British secret agents are unmasked by a large-scale hacker attack, the new prime minister has no choice but to put English back into active service. But at the same time she tries to attract a highly intelligent Internet billionaire to her side, because he seems to be the only one who can really stand up to the enemy.

Joyed by the unexpected reactivation, he and his assistant Bough set off for France, where the trail of the hacker, who is becoming more and more audacious, leads to. And of course it doesn’t take long until English with his undercover investigations causes chaos on all fronts and leaves debris and ashes everywhere he goes.

Rowan Atkinson stars as Johnny English in JOHNNY ENGLISH STRIKES AGAIN, a Focus Features release.


As a friend of the classic series that made Atkinson famous, I wasn’t too fond of the first two Johnny English movies. Even if the premise of a completely rotten British secret agent has potential, it’s not necessarily new. And the focus on bizarre gadgets and their even more bizarre applications deprives the films of their greatest strength: Atkinson’s ability to be funny without any tools at all.

Because whenever the abstruse spy clothes take a short break and let the man do his thing, the thing is the most fun. The rest are shallow slapstick interludes, most of which are not even very original and have been seen somewhere before in at least a similar form.

The fact that an ingenious, thrilling plot is not one of the main focal points of a film of this kind should not come as a surprise. However, even here you can expect a little bit more imagination (or effort) than the exhausted “hero does his best – hero gets fired unjustifiably – hero saves the world anyway” story. Or even not, because that’s exactly what you get served.

Emma Thompson as Prime Minister, Rowan Atkinson as Johnny English and Ben Miller as Bough in JOHNNY ENGLISH STRIKES AGAIN, a Focus Features release.

Another point that is sourly criticized is the almost irresponsible waste of talent and big names. Emma Thomson, Michael Gambon, Charles Dance and Edward Fox can all be confidently described as acting cultural assets. And yet they are just as burned up as a Jake Lacey or an Olga Kurylenko, who don’t have the same status, but are talented actors. Here you can see how many well-known names Rowan Atkinson has in his private phone book.

Only from a craftsman’s point of view you can’t complain too much about the third Johnny English strip. But there’s nothing to praise it for either. Direction, camera and editing function without any conspicuous features, neither in the positive nor in the negative sense. No experiments, no ideas, but no mistakes either. The soundtrack also splashes without any noteworthy highs or lows and fits seamlessly into the overall picture.

And that, reduced to the essential, is also the most accurate summary of this criticism. If there’s anything that makes the movie stand out, then it’s its insignificance that runs through all aspects. If the greatest thing about a movie is the protagonist’s red Aston Martin, there are clearly things going wrong.

Rowan Atkinson stars as Johnny English in JOHNNY ENGLISH STRIKES AGAIN, a Focus Features release.


Mir have not yet seen many films about which there is so little to say. Johnny English – Man lebt nur dreimal is not particularly funny, hardly exciting and certainly not surprising, with which he fails as a full-length agent comedy. The fact that he doesn’t actually do anything wrong in terms of craftsmanship doesn’t save the strip from the shallows of triviality either. There are clearly better and cheaper methods for not even being entertained for 90 minutes. Only confirmed Atkinson fans may enjoy the film, all others will have forgotten the film by the time they go to the toilet after the show at the latest.