Central Intelligence (2016)

  • Time: 114 min
  • Genre: Comedy | Crime
  • Director: Rawson Marshall Thurber
  • Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Aaron Paul, Danielle Nicolet


After he reunites with an old school pal through Facebook, a mild-mannered accountant is lured into the world of international espionage.

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  • All it takes to make a hilarious action comedy buddy movie is, to use the strapline for Central Intelligence, is a little Hart and a big Johnson. Following in the tradition of the genre’s odd couplings such as 48 Hours’ Eddie Murphy and Nick Nolte, Running Scared’s Billy Crystal and Gregory Hines, Lethal Weapon’s Mel Gibson and Danny Glover, and Rush Hour’s Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker, Central Intelligence pairs the impressively mismatched Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart to create one of the most perfect bromances in recent years.

    The movie begins in 1996 in a Maryland high school locker room shower where the overweight Robbie Weirdicht (Johnson, whose face was CGI’d onto another actor’s body) is joyously singing along and busting out some pretty good moves to En Vogue’s “My Lovin’ (You’re Never Gotta Get It).” A pack of bullies grab the naked Robbie and throw him into the packed gymnasium where popular jock and prom king Calvin Joyner (Hart) is declaring his love to his sweetheart Maggie (Danielle Nicolet) and leading a pep rally for the graduating class. Everyone, including the faculty, is hysterically laughing at the sight of him. Everyone, that is, except Calvin, who offers his varsity jacket to a grateful Robbie, who flees from the gymnasium never to be heard from again.

    Twenty years later, Calvin and Maggie are happily married but with no children, and Mr. Most Likely to Succeed is working as an accountant in a firm where he not only has to deal with brown-nosing douchebags like Steve (Ryan Hansen) but also with losing promotions to former assistants. He’s in no mood to attend his upcoming high school reunion, where he anticipates he’ll be completely confronted with his perceived failure in life. He laments how he never got to be a hero in his own story…and then arrives a Facebook friend request from someone named Bob Stone. Turns out Bob Stone is actually Robbie Weirdicht, and he has spent the last 20 years transforming himself into a muscled hunk. Oh, and by the way, he’s also a rogue CIA agent who may or may not have murdered his partner, stolen valuable encryption codes to sell to the highest bidder, and be just a teensy bit psychotic.

    The mild-mannered Calvin suddenly finds himself in the middle of all the intrigue, though he keeps insisting to Bob that he wants nothing to do with all of this. “I’m not in!” he keeps screaming, only to be further pulled into the stand-offs and shoot-outs between Bob and the law enforcement team led by Bob’s boss, Agent Pamela Harris (the ever-wonderful Amy Ryan, who injects mischief in her character’s heartlessness), who also wants to use Calvin to capture Bob. One of the film’s highlights finds Harris and her team narrowing in on Bob in Calvin’s office. Bob plops the hysterical Calvin into a mail cart and wheels him through the office, all the while calmly and expertly taking on all comers, before crashing through the window and falling numerous stories below.

    The script by Ike Barinholtz, David Stassen and director Rawson Marshall Thurber is chock full of funny bits, whether it be the running gag of Bob showing up in places from seemingly out of nowhere to his admiring descriptions for Calvin (“You’re like a chocolate Google!”, “You’re a snack-size Denzel!”, “You’re like a black Will Smith!”). The screenwriters also incorporate elements from the actors’ offscreen lives such as the fanny pack sported by a younger Johnson in a photograph that’s made the talk show and social media rounds. Hart’s height is constantly mined for laughs (“You’re shorter than my cat,” remarks one character) as is the visual gag of the minuscule Hart next to the massive Johnson (the whole of Hart is about the size of one of Johnson’s thighs).

    Of the two, Bob may be the more interesting creation. He’s always at the ready to protect against bullies but is reduced to quivering helplessness when reminded of high school. Even though he looks the way he does now and is very, very lucky with the ladies, Bob is still a bit of a peculiar egg. “I’m big time into the ‘corns!” he enthusiastically declares when Calvin notices the unicorn on his tight tee; “I keep it pitch black like Vin Diesel,” he explains of his reluctance to ever be seen fully naked, even when having sex. Then there’s his everlasting adoration of the movie Sixteen Candles. which is surpassed only by his endearing affection for Calvin, and the happiness he gleans from being around his buddy. In fact, the warmth and genuine delight that Hart and Johnson share in each other’s company is what makes the film so hugely appealing and enjoyable.

    There are some great unbilled cameos in Central Intelligence – the actors shall remain nameless but one plays the adult version of one of Bob’s tormentors with such gleeful nastiness that he deserves some sort of award.

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