UK Release Date: 1st July 2016
Runtime: 108 minutes
Director: Rawson Marshall Thurber
Writer: Rawson Marshall Thurber, Ike Barinholtz, David Stassen
Starring: Kevin Hart, Dwayne Johnson, Amy Ryan, Danielle Nicolet, Aaron Paul
Synopsis: A man who is experiencing a lull in his life after excelling in high school becomes embroiled in a dangerous conspiracy when he is visited by a face from his past harbouring a secret.
Anyone who ever saw Dwayne Johnson cut a promo in WWE as The Rock will know that he is one of the funniest, quickest-witted people on the planet. It’s no surprise in that respect that he has gone on to become a tremendous comic actor, even managing to be something of a bright spot in the moral cesspit that was Pain & Gain. In the shape of Rawson Marshall Thurber‘s Central Intelligence, he has finally found a comedic vehicle that is the ideal vessel for his talents. It’s an often thrilling, frequently hilarious film that sees Johnson playing so off-kilter that he turns Kevin Hart into the straight man.
Calvin Joyner (Hart) was a high-flyer at school, lauded by his classmates. Now an adult, he is married to classmate Maggie (Danielle Nicolet) and working as an accountant, disappointed by his humdrum life. He receives a message on Facebook from a mysterious man called Bob Stone who wants to meet for a drink. It turns out that Bob is the new moniker of Robbie Wierdicht (Johnson), who was bullied for his size at school, but is now a musclebound man with remarkable skills in a bar fight. Calvin lets Bob stay the night, but is visited the next day by CIA agent Pamela Harris (Amy Ryan), who says that Bob is a very dangerous man and is hunting him down.
On paper, Central Intelligence is a fairly standard action thriller, playing Hart’s fish out of water predicament for laughs as the situation becomes increasingly ridiculous and extraordinary. However, the film is far more interesting than that and takes its story in interesting directions, aided by a script written by director Thurber, as well as David Stassen and actor Ike Barinholtz, recently seen in Bad Neighbours 2 and Suicide Squad. The story spins off in interesting directions and even manages to conjure up some decent third act revelations and twists as we question which side Bob is on.
Kevin Hart is solid as Calvin, who brings a surprising poignancy to the role of a man struggling to find his place in the world after leaving the comfortable hierarchy of high school. It’s an unusually straight performance for Hart and one that allows him to keep his trademark frenetic energy under wraps, releasing it only when it’s appropriate to draw the proper reaction. Central Intelligence does a stellar job of using Hart in the right way and using him as a foil for the real star of the movie – Dwayne Johnson.
Johnson has never been better than he is in this movie. Everything about the character and the performance he gives is delightfully off-kilter and really very strange indeed, creating a childlike persona at odds with his muscular appearance and secret service skills. It’s tough to figure out Bob as a character, but Johnson is clearly having a ball in every scene, entirely comfortable with bringing as much joy as possible to a role that could’ve been played really dark indeed. Special mention must go to the heavily trailed opening scene, in which a terrifying CGI approximation of what an obese Johnson would look like dances nude to En Vogue’s ‘My Lovin’ (You’re Never Gonna Get It)’. It has to be seen to be believed.
Central Intelligence is by no means a perfect film and has a rather slapdash feel, as well as slightly incoherent action scenes. As a showcase for the comic talents of its two leads, though, it’s a deliriously entertaining movie that brings the laughs with gleeful abandon. Just about everyone in the world loves Dwayne Johnson and this will likely convert any of the naysayers pretty quickly.
Pop or Poop?
Dwayne Johnson is a comedy star and Central Intelligence is the perfect vehicle for his unique brand of physicality and offbeat humour. Kevin Hart takes a step back to allow his co-star to dominate as the action comes as thick and fast as the laughter.
The gunplay and chases don’t work as well as the straightforward comedy and the sentimentality of the storyline is nonsense, but this is an undemanding studio comedy and it lives and dies on its breezy laughs. It’s the kind of comedy that you will want to keep coming back to over and over again.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.