STARRING: Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Amy Ryan, Aaron Paul, Danielle Nicolet, Timothy John Smith, Megan Park, Ryan Hansen and Thomas Kretschmann
After he reconnects with an awkward pal from high school through Facebook, a mild-mannered accountant is lured into the world of international espionage.
Calvin Joyner was voted in High School as the kid most likely to succeed. Robbie Weirdicht was at the opposite end of the High School spectrum as he was the kid that got picked on and after a extremely nasty prank in front of his classmates, he left school and was never heard of again. 20 years later and we find Calvin is now an accountant. As his High School reunion is fast approaching, he is contacted by someone named Bob Stone. He discovers that Bob Stone is in fact Robbie Weirdicht and the two bond over the course of the night while Calvin is surprised by his transformation. After helping Bob out with something, the CIA arrive on Calvin’s doorstep the next day and learns that not only is Bob CIA but he’s also a rogue agent, luring Calvin into the world of international espionage.
Central Intelligence is the latest film from director Rawson Marshall Thurber whose previous films include Dodgeball and We’re The Millers. While I very much enjoyed one of them (Dodgeball) and wasn’t a fan of the other (We’re The Millers) I was at least intrigued by Central Intelligence due to the casting of Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart in the leads. The trailers for the most part didn’t really do much for me in terms of laughs but I decided to give the film a chance earlier today….and I’m glad I did because I had a blast watching this film.
There are two reasons why Central Intelligence works for me – Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart. If you couldn’t tell through the course of the film, there’s an outtake reel at the end of the film to let you know that these two had an absolute blast working together and it shows on screen as their chemistry elevates the material that they’re working on (though I’m sure there’s a few scenes with some back and forth interaction was improv’ed). While the two play up to their ‘isms a few times (Johnson the action star and Hart the loud, frantic comedian), they switch against type with Hart being mostly the straight one of the duo whose trademark frantic nature is understandable as this hurricane in the shape of Bob Stone and spirals his life out of control. The artist formally known as The Rock however is balancing a fine line between being the kid that was bullied horribly at school that has grown into an older, muscular killing machine whilst still having that mental state of mind as that kid from High School. It sounds weird yet for the story it just worked for me to watch unfold as he still comes to terms with what happened to him back then, which leads to one memorable certain with a noticeable cameo that I thought worked really well. Some of the action scenes shot here, particularly on the gun fight side of things I thought were well done, one that stood out for me is when Bob takes out ink from the photocopier and shoots it whilst in mid-air, spraying those shooting at him and Calvin. It’s a small moment but it’s imprinted in my head.
As great as the chemistry is, if you have the mindset of not liking previous performances from Hart for instance (I’ve made it known in my Ride Along 2 a few months ago that his act was starting to wear thin for me), I doubt there’s anything here that could change your mind, though in the context of the story I thought his style worked well within the realms of his character. It’s a pretty by-the-numbers style of action-comedy as it eludes to this villain that will obviously be a character we’ve already seen before and with only a few characters to choose from, it’s pretty easy to figure out exactly who it is. The film kind of loses it’s way in the final act showdown and does feel overlong in its runtime. While I liked the shots of the gun fight sequences, some of the hand-to-hand close up stuff is too close/blurry even for my liking. The bullying theme that hangs over the film and how that concludes may feel too on the nose for some or they may even feel that the film didn’t need that added to the plot but again it worked for me as it’s a primarily focus on Johnson’s character. While Johnson and Hart take up the majority of the runtime, this leaves the other characters to feel wasted and just serving as plot devices for are leads.
Central Intelligence happens to be the most surprising film for me this year in terms of how much enjoyment I got watching it, from the infectious chemistry between Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart on screen, to the way some of the gun fight sequences were shot. Sure it might be paper thin in plot and not fleshing out secondary characters or even develop a memorable villain, I was laughing constantly throughout the course of an admittedly overlong film. As it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, Central Intelligence is definitely top of the guilty pleasure list for 2016 and now we’ve entered the next stage of Dwayne Johnson being able to work in various genres. 8/10