Central Intelligence (2016)
I really wasn’t sure whether or not I wanted to give my time over to Central Intelligence. Despite the fact that I’m a huge fan of Dwayne Johnson. And despite the fact that I always tend to at least chuckle at Kevin Hart’s small and ineffectually angry schtick. I just wasn’t sure if I wanted to head along to another comedy that seemed to have little more going for it than a mismatched pairing. But then I saw the tagline that they were using; “Saving the world takes a little Hart and a big Johnson”. I laughed. I laughed even before I’d seen any footage from the trailer. Yes, I thought, I can buy a ticket and take a chance on this one.
Of course, I would have been all for it sooner if I’d realised that this was co-written and directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber (the man who gave us We’re The Millers and the eminently quotable Dodgeball). The man just knows how to tickle my funny bone. But could he make it three for three (from the ones I have seen)?
Well, the short answer is yes.
Hart plays Calvin Joyner, a man who is starting to worry that he may have peaked in high school. He’s managed to marry the love of his life (Danielle Nicolet) but there’s not much else that he’s overly enthused about. One Facebook friend request later, he meets up with Bob Stone (Johnson). Bob used to be bullied at school, because of his old surname, his body shape, and his habit of singing along to En Vogue in the shower, and Calvin was the only one who ever helped him out when he needed it most. The two enjoy some beers and some nostalgia, and then – before you can say whassupppppppp (see the film) – it all starts to get twisty and turny, with the revelation that Stone now works for the CIA. But is he one of the good guys? Some of the people pursuing him don’t think so. And Calvin can’t be sure as the fists and bullets start to fly around him.
What Thurber does so well here (alongside co-writers Ike Barinholtz and David Stassen) is exactly what we’ve seen done so well in other recent action comedies, such as Get Smart, Spy, The Other Guys and even, although I didn’t love it, American Ultra. The comedy works well, in this case mainly thanks to the chemistry between Hart and Johnson, but the action sequences are given equal care. And, another recent trend that I’ve enjoyed in these movies, viewers aren’t expected to laugh at the stupidity of the leads. They have their moments, sure, but these are two men who are far from complete idiots. One is way out of his depth, while the others is an amusing dichotomy of lethal skills and a sunny disposition.
There’s very little to say about Johnson now that hasn’t been said before. The guy is a man mountain of dazzling charisma, bulging muscles, and great innate comedic ability. Hart brings his usual fast talking and quick wit to the proceedings, and his other main selling point is surely the fact that he always somehow manages to give his potentially irritating characters a sweetness and concern for others (sometimes). He’s an ass, he’s sometimes a liability, and he’s not the man you always want by your side in a dangerous situation, but he’s all heart. No pun intended. Amy Ryan also does well in a small role, Jason Bateman enjoys being a douchebag for almost all of his screentime, and Aaron Paul enjoys playing someone in a movie that finally just lets him have some fun.
There’s plenty of familiarity here (including those already mentioned, this also runs a bit close to the basic premise of The Do-Over) and, more importantly, there are plenty of laughs. And if they can come up with an idea for a sequel then I will be on board, without any hesitation.
DIRECTOR: RAWSON MARSHALL THURBER
WRITER: IKE BARINHOLTZ, DAVID STASSEN, RAWSON MARSHALL THURBER
STARS: DWAYNE JOHNSON, KEVIN HART, AMY RYAN, DANIELLE NICOLET, JASON BATEMAN, AARON PAUL
RUNTIME: 107 MINS APPROX