Cert: 12A / 108 mins / Dir. Rawson Marshall Thurber / Trailer
I don't want to start this review on a downer (not least because I usually work up to that), but there was a pretty good crowd for the opening-night performance of Central Intelligence. In fact, there were approximately three-times more people in the room than are currently booked for the opening night of Ghostbusters in less than two weeks time. Just throwing that out there. There'll be plenty of time to judge that movie in due course. And plenty of room too, I shouldn't wonder.
Anyway. When 38yr old forensic-accountant CJ (Kevin Hart) gets an unexpected friend-request from painfully-shy former schoolmate Bob (Dwayne Johnson), his life is quickly turned upside down as he's dragged into a world of encrypted data, government agents and getting shot at! Danger and hilarity ensue as this odd couple have to... yeah, you get the picture. It's that film. It's all in the trailer.
The film doesn't start particularly strongly, with a 1996 high-school sequence featuring CGI'd versions of Kevin Hart and Dwayne Johnson that are so far down the uncanny valley, they're practically in another film. But with a couple of pratfalls and some heavy-handed sentiment, we're whizzed through a Mission-Impossible-Lite title sequence, and things drop into a more familiar gear.
The plot, as intimated above, involves Hart being a former school-champion turned office-drone, and Johnson being a former fat-kid turned CIA killing machine. A seemingly chance encounter leads to a conspiracy-plot mixed with ferocious slapstick and patchy ad-libbing from Hart. A mis-matched buddy movie with more of its fair share of spy-shenanigans shoehorned in to keep the set-pieces moving along. It is, as also intimated above, a movie you've seen several times before. Perhaps the only saving grace of the film is Dwayne Johnson's performance. He's actually a far better comic straight-man than many give him credit for (his comedy-game is certainly stronger than the action-autopiloting he pays his mortgage with), and he offsets Kevin Hart's incessant shrieking perfectly. And Hart isn't terrible in this, but he's really being paid just to turn up and play Kevin Hart™. And together they just about make the whole thing work (tonight's audience certainly enjoyed it, which is good). Director Rawson Marshall Thurber delivers the action and comedy efficiently enough, but struggles to find the balance between the two.
And while the film doesn't dawdle in its storytelling, it definitely ends about fifteen minutes later than it should, in a self-congratulatory afterglow which is dragged out for far longer than any of the action-sequences, and then leads in to a credits-roll accompanied by some incredibly laboured out-takes. If learning to love yourself is the key to happiness, this could be the most smug movie you'll watch this year.
Although it's probably better than the trailers would suggest, this isn't a great film by any means; but I have seen far far worse (and with this movie's lead performers, too). Central Intelligence is to cinematic comedy what Independence Day Resurgence is to sci-fi: formulaic, largely inoffensive (if thoroughly insincere) mainstream filler.
Well, in another life this movie would have Mark Wahlberg or Will Ferrell in it.
That sort of thing.
Probably, but it's aiming low.
As passable as this is, no.
Level 2: That Dwayne Johnson was in 2008's Get Smart, as was Terence 'Valorum' Stamp.
• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
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