Directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber. Starring Dwayne Johnson, KeviN Hart, Ryan Hansen, Danielle Nicolet, Jason Bateman.
THE PLOT: Twenty years after high school Calvin Joyner (Kevin Hart) has not lived up to his potential of being “most likely to succeed”. When he declines the Facebook invite to his high school reunion, an former schoolmate gets in touch; Bob Stone (Dwayne Johnson). A far cry from the overweight, self-conscious kid he was in school, Bob is now in the CIA and chasing down a threat to national security, a threat that he needs Calvin’s help in stopping.
THE VERDICT: From the opening moments of ‘Central Intelligence’, where we see Dwayne Johnson’s face digitally spliced onto the body of an overweight teen, we know that this is the set up for many a gag throughout the film, but we also know that we are in for a treat; very few seem as happy to take the mick out of themselves than Johnson.
Kevin Hart leads the cast here, and thankfully his usual manic screeching is toned down by his pairing with the more steady and frankly, funnier Dwayne Johnson. The two work well together, but there is little doubt that without Johnson, Hart would be unbearable. Johnson’s comedic timing is wonderful, and his ability to keep the audience guessing throughout the film is admirable. Elsewhere in the cast Amy Ryan plays a CIA agent trying to track Bob Stone down, Ryan Hansen has a small and cleverly obnoxious role as Steve and Danielle Nicolet plays Calvin’s wife Maggie. Jason Bateman, Aaron Paul and Melissa McCarthy also turn up in cameo roles.
The story, written by Ike Barinholtz, David Stassen and Rawson Marshall Thurber feels as little as though it was inspired by ‘Grosse Pointe Blank’ – guy goes back to his high school reunion and has to hide what he does for a living. Central Intelligence is not quite as whip smart, introspective and downright odd as the John Cusack vehicle but it plays up the differences between Johnson and Hart, while allowing huge plot holes in the story to go unanswered and the whole reason for the two teaming up in the first place feels a little thin. The comedic timing of both lead actors is strong, and the film certainly has fun with allowing Johnson to play up the former fat kid side of his character.
As director, Rawson Marshall Thurber plays up the odd couple comedy between Johnson and Hart, while making sure that Hart doesn’t shriek over the entire film and become completely grating. As well as this, Johnson is given plenty of time to make his enthusiastic, happy character work on screen, and mine the entire situation for laughs. Of which there are many. Trouble arises with the convoluted story that is something to do with codes? It is not fleshed out either way, and is often left to fall b the wayside. As well as this, the pacing of the film in the final act is problematic, with the entire film feeling as though it could have ended 20 minutes earlier than it does.
In all, ‘Central Intelligence’ is a film anchored by the odd-couple comedy between Johnson and Hart, but it is really Johnson that carries the entire shebang on his able (and broad) shoulders. Most of the laughs come from Johnson, and he carefully balances out the more shrill Hart. The film suffers from weak pacing and a lack of focus on the actual story, but there is plenty of fun to be had with ‘Central Intelligence’, and Johnson shines as he mercilessly pokes fun at himself.
RATING: 3.5/5
Review by Brogen Hayes

  • filmbuff2011

    ‘Saving the world takes a little Hart and a big Johnson’. That’s a cute tagline for comedy thriller Central Intelligence, which serves as a vehicle for the comedic talents of Kevin Hart and Dwayne Johnson. It’s an inspired double act, but the film itself leaves a lot to be desired.

    Calvin (Hart) always wanted to be the hero of his own story. Instead, he ended up as a less-than-heroic accountant. With a 20-year class reunion coming up, he gets a Facebook message from old high school buddy Bob (Johnson). They meet up for a beer and Calvin realises that Bob was actually a boy who was notoriously bullied in school. Now he’s a hulking Rock who lets slip that he’s actually a CIA agent. Drawing Calvin into his shadowy world of espionage, the two go after some stolen satellite data that could end up in the hands of a big bad known as the not-very-threatening Black Badger. Agent Harris (Amy Ryan) tries to convince Calvin that Bob is really a rogue agent who may be using him as a pawn in a much grander game…

    Central Intelligence largely gets by on the charms of its leads. Hart tones down his usual motormouth performance for something closer to a straight man against the more colourful Johnson. Johnson plays his character against type, a unicorn-loving gentle giant who is at home either ripping throats out or getting emotional watching Sixteen Candles. It’s quite a contrast, but the two spark off each other well and the chemistry between them is amiable and unforced. A good supporting cast including Aaron Paul, Thomas Kretschmann and a few celebrity cameos round it out nicely.

    Sadly, Central Intelligence never really takes off as a story. Rawson Marshall Thurber, the wonderfully-named director of Dodgeball, struggles to get the film over its obvious hurdles. For example, an overly convoluted plot that never really resolves itself and leaves more questions than answers. Pointing multiple fingers at the Black Badger just confuses things even more. Settling on just one character as the Black Badger would have made more sense – and allowed the respective actor more screen time. The story just feels beneath the talents of Hart and Johnson – they deserve better than this rather lazily-plotted film. Let’s hope that they find the right script next time.

    Central Intelligence isn’t particularly bad – it’s just not much good. The tone for the film is set in the opening scene, with a very unconvincing de-aged CGI version of Johnson. It’s as bad as the one in The Mummy Returns – and that was 15 years ago. It’s passable summer nonsense but is easily disposable. **

    • Clive Bower

      I disagree with filmbuff2011 I actually really enjoyed the film to my complete surprise. The clips I have seen so far make this look really poor but as a whole its really quite funny well worth a look in , in relation to the cgi in the opening scene its a comedy not a action flick . The Rock and Hart really gel well here, check it out