Central Intelligence (2016)
Directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber • Written by Ike Barinholtz, David Stasson & Rawsom Marshall Thurber
With Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Jason Bateman, Aaron Paul, Amy Ryan and Danielle Nicolet
His first feature since the amusing road comedy, We’re the Millers, Rawson Marshall Thurber is back with a bang, co-writing and directing Kevin Hart and Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson in Central Intelligence, a hyperbolic action-comedy buddy caper with a slight whiff of Twins about it.
The ever excitable Hart plays Calvin Joyner, a successful but uninspired Boston accountant (his job matters later). In his college glory days, Calvin was the man. Nicknamed ‘The Golden Jet’ for his athletic prowess, he was voted ‘the guy most likely to succeed’. Conversely, Bob Stone (Johnson) was an overweight kid – a regular victim of malicious school bullies. Shortly before a ‘Class of 1996’ reunion, Joyner receives a Facebook friend invitation from Stone and the pair arrange to meet. Of course, there’s more to Bob Stone than meets the eye…though perhaps that isn’t the best cliché to apply to a physical specimen as impressive as Dwayne Johnson.
For a film that has about as much originality as a slice of bread, Central Intelligence is blessed with the presence of Johnson and Hart, who turn what could’ve been a procession of tired jokes into a good-natured piece of knock-about fun. At times, Hart’s coltish schtick is overindulged, with some of his scenes overextended to seemingly show off his talent. These moments damage the pace and rhythm of the edit, indeed, with a hefty-feeling running-time of 107-mins, it’s easy to spot moments that might have been trimmed.
Aside from an array of entertaining action sequences, there are colourful supporting characters, most prominently, a spiteful Jason Bateman, who almost does an Alec Baldwin in Glengarry Glen Ross, coming close to stealing the entire film with a relatively small amount of screen time.
Though it’s 15-mins too long and has a repetitive plot that’s more exhausting than intriguing, ultimately, Central Intelligence is a warm-hearted teddy bear of a movie – its positive message skilfully sentimental in a way that isn’t leaden or mawkish. Much of that can be attributed to Dwayne Johnson’s undeniable affability, with his beaming smile and real-life enthusiasm seeping from every pore, imbuing a worn formula with an endearing spirit.