CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE (Universal/Warner Bros.)
Dir. Rawson Marshall Thurber, Script. Ike Barinholtz, David Stassen, Rawson Marshall Thurber
Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart
Plot: Calvin (Hart) was a high school king, but became an accountant. Robbie (Johnson) was a high school loser, but became a CIA agent. They meet up.
Most insiders have been saying that the star-driven movie is on the wane, but Central Intelligence is proof that you need not attempt to make a top-notch movie if you have two familiar faces. As you may have expected from the marketing campaigns for this action-comedy from We’re The Millers director Rawson Marshall Thurber, this film is A-lister above all other things, including logic and the laws of physics. However, while I might snidely take shots at aggressively commercial movies such as this, there’s no denying that Central Intelligence is good fun, and should provide a gun-driven kick during the summer season.
Of course, if you have seen any of the posters/trailers/Instagram warring designed to promote Central Intelligence, you’ll know it stars ‘The People’s Elbow’ himself, Dwayne Johnson. And as much as many would have chortled at the former wrestling superstar’s sudden move into Hollywood acting, Johnson has ascended over the last couple of years to be maybe the only bankable action star we have, and a lot of that’s down to his colossal likeability factor. However, Johnson’s performance is more difficult to love this time out, not helped by a truly frightening opening in which Johnson’s face is superimposed onto the body of a fat child, as if a Nokia phone from 2005 was attempting Face-Swap. The Rock’s CIA agent character has an affinity for Kevin Hart’s character, but not in a ‘I respect you’ kinda way, more a ‘Get me a fifty mile restraining order’ way. This is one of the many running gags Central Intelligence goes for that do not pay off at all, along with Hart disagreeing with Johnson’s plans only for Johnson to carry them out anyway; this happens nearly every minute of the film, and it is infuriating.
‘Infuriating’ is a word that I’ve used many a time to describe Kevin Hart, walking proof that Napoleon doing comedy would have been a bad move. Hart seems to be in every film that gets a release date at the moment (his last feature, The Secret Life Of Pets, was my last review), and while his vocal turn in Pets was fitting, his live-action work has always been nails-on-a-chalkboard annoying; poor acting at 200 decibels. Hart plays the straight man this time round, a down-on-his-luck accountant who will, inevitably, learn he has the power to save the world. Hart is more tolerable this time, although I’m not sure if it’s because he’s tempered his shrieking habit or my mind has simply blocked it out, like the inevitability of death, or last year’s Fantastic Four reboot. Hart can be a likeable lead, and his and Johnson’s exchanges are lively, although the dialogue is standard fare. It’s a double act that does feel like it has something going for it, and I anticipate this won’t be the last movie with these two topping the bill.
Johnson and Hart’s natural chemistry also leads to a few moments of genuine triumph – a scene in which Johnson wheels Hart out of an office block window under gunfire to Blur is particularly hilarious, and is just an objectively happy moment. However, as it seems a lot of studio comedies are right now, it’s a hit and miss screenplay, with plenty of its gags flat-lining. With such a large focus on the Johnson-Hart duo, it’s as if scriptwriter Ike Barinholtz (an actor who played in the decently funny Bad Neighbours 2) forgot that supplementary characters are actually a thing, and he sort of threw them in there as an afterthought. Hart’s wife Maggie’s main personality trait is that she is married, Amy Ryan’s CIA chief antagonist is as plain as the suits her security detail wear. One side character, played by a name you don’t expect to show up, has a little bit more to them, but the other big name cameo appearance is Melissa McCarthy (star of the highly controversial female Ghostbusters re-hash, and whom my feelings on will be revealed when that movie comes out in a couple of weeks), and it’s more of a distraction than anything else.
Rawson Marshall Thurber, the man behind cult classic Dodgeball and We’re The Millers not too long ago, doesn’t do himself a disservice with solid, close-quarters action sequences, and his visual cues often inject a bit of comic life into the script. Central Intelligence‘s production values are really solid too: the film looks sleek, the action is well put-together, and even the CG doesn’t look out of place (except when utilised for a certain acrobatic move that is only made more funny because of how off the CG looks). There’s even a blooper reel! Why don’t more movies have proper blooper reels?! Also, stay for the blooper reel, because there’s a gag in there that is absolutely beautiful. Central Intelligence might not be logically coherent, cleverly written or well-paced (the first fifteen minutes are effectively useless) movie, but the game duo of Johnson and Hart have enough enthusiasm that the film coasts by on their shoulders. If you’re looking for a by-the-numbers action movie to turn your mind off for a bit, there’s not many that fit that bill quite as well as this.
BEST WATCHED: Wait for Netflix to get it and enjoy it on a boring night.
Dwayne Johnson isn’t going away. One of the hardest-working actors in Hollywood at the moment, Johnson’s upcoming movies list is truly stunning: he has sequels for San Andreas, and the Journey series. He has a voice role in Disney’s upcoming Moana, and will star in Shane Black’s upcoming Doc Savage movie. Then, there’s the film version of Baywatch, in which he stars with Zac Efron, DC Universe film Shazam! (exclamation mark included), and just to cap it all off, Fast & Furious 8. And before I forget, he and Kevin Hart will reunite in a remake of Jumanji.