By Thomas Simpson
Dwayne Johnson takes time out of beating up bad guys alongside Vin Diesel to beat up bad guys alongside Kevin Hart. When it comes to having a tag team partner, Hart may lack the muscular fortitude of Diesel, but in Central Intelligence he handles the task of straight man incredibly well. It’s an odd switch to cast the hulking Johnson in the goofier role; however, it’s a gamble that pays off.
High school is over and the Homecoming King Calvin Joyner (Hart) finds himself in a monotonous accountancy job. When he receives a friend request from the school loser Robbie Wheirdicht (Johnson) he decides that meeting up for a few drinks should be harmless. But a lot can happen in 20 years with Wheirdicht, now going by Bob Stone, having shed his fat boy wimp persona transforming into a jacked up Jason Bourne. When it’s revealed Wheirdicht is a CIA operative, Joyner is caught in a tangled web that has him doubting who to believe as he finds himself in the middle of a war between the CIA and shady arms dealers.
Johnson is a man who bleeds charisma and cuts an incredibly likable presence on screen. This is why it makes it difficult to invest in him as a unicorn loving nerd with self-esteem issues for the first act. As the story unravels we become more comfortable with Johnson who effortlessly switches from geek to stone cold killer all the while prompting us to question who he really is.
Not that there’s much to ponder when it comes to the plot. The twists are predictable but it doesn’t take away from the enjoyment. The clichéd action movie tropes are excused due to the comedic nature of the film. Director Rawson Marshall Thurber revels in the absurdity of the set pieces knowing fine well the genre allows each act of violence to be accompanied by a wink and a nod, or even a raised eyebrow.
Hart may lack the superstar aura Johnson brings to the table yet it doesn’t stop him from holding his own against the People’s Champion. Hart’s deadpan delivery at the right moments make for some of the best laughs in the film. The outtakes that play over the credits show the fun that both leads had during the making, creating a brilliant chemistry that excels onscreen and propels the script to a higher level.
Central Intelligence doesn’t take itself seriously and while it may not be a laugh a minute comedy fest, it’s an entertaining buddy film that ticks all the right boxes. There aren’t many surprises in the story, although there are a few potentially unexpected scene-stealing cameos to ensure a decent night out.
Thomas Simpson is a writer and filmmaker based in Glasgow, U.K. Find him on Twitter: @Simmy41.