Jul 012016
 
Central Intelligence Poster
Title: Central Intelligence
Director: Dawson Marshall Thurber
Starring: Dwayne Johnson,
Kevin Hart.
Genre: Action, Comedy
Runtime: 1 Hour 47 mins
Music: Theodore Shapiro,
Ludwig Göransson
Studio: Universal Pictures
Certificate: US: PG-13
UK: 12A
Release Date: US: Jun 17 2016
UK: Jun 29 2016
See If You Like: Ride Along

Studio bosses clearly had faith in this action/comedy/buddy-cop/bumbling-spy movie; as Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart have already been asked to re-team and headline a planned Jumanji remake; yet while the pairing of Johnson and Hart may be a charismatic bag-of-laughs, Central Intelligence is not.

A clear, written-by-committe, studio film, Central Intelligence takes a fairly unoriginal concept; featuring a high-school friend turning up, proclaiming he’s in the CIA, and dragging his bumbling buddy along for an action-and-scream-filled ride through a maze of intrigue and espionage, as he attempts to clear his name (because obviously he’s been framed with treason)  and save the entire free-world; to every place you’d expect it to go in a predictable, and barely amusing, paint-by-numbers action/comedy.

Aside from ‘former-fatty hooks up with long-lost buddy for gun-toting adventure time’, the plot is largely negligible as well; it’s not only extremely difficult to believe in any of the events here occurring (surely the CIA wouldn’t hire anyone who’s clearly stalker-level obsessed with a former high-school classmate he hasn’t seen in 20 years?), but the idea behind the terrorist plot, the everyday accountant being able to solve problems even the CIA’s top minds couldn’t see, and the motivations behind every character’s actions seem unfathomably dull.

Dull is also unfortunately a word which all too readily describes Central Intelligence; a film which, given its comedic outlook, and the high-energy of the stars involved, should have been a laugh-a-minute affair, was sadly lacking. Not only are there no laughs to be found, but ‘jokes’ are often strung-out and overplayed by a mile; mirroring the mind-boggling pacing, which manages to jump from indescribably slow to lightning fast in mere seconds.

So, what’s to like? Well, it’s more than competently directed by Dodgeball‘s Rawson Marshall Thurber, the action scenes are well done, and there’s a mildly enjoyable modern soundtrack, but as you’d expect the real reason to keep watching is the undeniable chemistry between Dawyne Johnson and Kevin Hart.

Central Intelligence 01 Dwayne Johnson Kevin Hart

Johnson and Hart are a perfect comedy duo, and both fit into their respective roles with ease; Kevin Hart is once again basically playing the Kevin Hart character (he could’ve been transplanted straight out of Ride Along), a fish-out-of-water type who gets mixed up in an action-man’s world, has no idea what’s going on, and manages to scream and bumble his way to saving the day on multiple occasions; while Dwayne Johnson is on top form as the former-fatty turned muscle-man who recruits Hart to help him save the world. He’s exceptional as the slightly obsessed, still somewhat juvenile man who refuses to see anything but good in his high-school idol, and often ignores all offers of sanity in order to do something cool and fun.

Despite playing the straight-man to Johnson’s crazier character, Hart fails to elevate himself above his usual irritating level (he’s the same screaming buffoon in just about every movie he’s in and, as The Secret Life Of Pets proves, far better suited to being a voice actor), but still shares a chemistry with Johnson which can’t be denied. Yet, as the first (Johnson-free) twenty minutes of the movie prove, Hart is awful, far from a leading man, and it’s solely due to Dwayne’s dichotomy with him, that the pairing works; it’s The Rock who makes Central Intelligence tolerable, and even fun in places. It’s The Rock who’s the real star, and it’s The Rock who’s sadly held back here by a consistently irritating co-star, and woeful writing.

Even a handful of decent cameos couldn’t save the predictable, and deliriously dull, Central Intelligence; a mindless, unenjoyable, affair which takes a fantastic comedy pairing (despite how irritating Kevin Hart continues to be) and stamps all the enjoyment out of it. Dwayne Johnson was fantastic, and it’s great to see him not only showing a little more range (from the usual straight-action/blockbuster affair we’re usually seeing him in) but clearly having a lot of fun. Skip Central Intelligence, and wait until a Dwayne Johnson solo-outing, which given Dwayne’s energy, comic-timing, and sheer charisma, has to be on the way – please?

Matt Wheeldon@TheMattWheeldon.

Verdict
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