Full of potential but light on substance.
July 02, 2016
Dwayne Johnson (aka 'The Rock') is an absolute Hollywood powerhouse. Just physically the guy's so strong he looks like he could bench press someone while they were bench-pressing. Yet there's so much more than brute force to this wrestler-turned-box office behemoth. In recent times he's had years (such as 2013) where his films have grossed more than US $1 billion combined. With more instalments of the unstoppable Fast and Furious franchise on the horizon, he's fast becoming the most bankable man in the business. No wonder, then, he's recently been hailed as the official heir-apparent to the king of action – Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Then there's Kevin Hart, fast-becoming a movie-making powerhouse in his own right. Since just 2014 he's already churned out thirteen films, prompting Chris Rock to joke at the Oscars that not even porn stars make them as quickly as he does. Hart is increasingly being likened to Eddie Murphy for his style of comedy, his likability and his growing credentials as an action-comedy star. With all that said, the only thing surprising about Central Intelligence is how long it took to actually put Hart and Johnson together. And if you're wondering, yes, the film immediately went to no.1 on the US Box Office.
Plot wise, there's very little to speak of. Johnson plays Bob Stone, an unflappable CIA operative who may or may not have gone rogue from the Agency, and who twenty years prior was the enormously fat kid subjected to relentless bullying by just about everyone other than Hart in his high school. On the eve of their school reunion, Stone reaches out to Hart's character, Calvin Joyner – the former class president and guy voted 'most likely to succeed'. Joyner is now a mid-level accountant in the throws of a mid-life crisis. Together, the pair quickly find themselves pursued by the CIA as they chase down some secret classified information. It's a classic odd-couple, buddy action comedy in the vein of the Schwarzenegger/DeVito movie Twins, only with far less class and only the most threadbare of storylines.
Both Hart and Johnson throw themselves completely into their roles, without which the film would be a proper stinker. They're both terrifically funny actors, and Johnson's deadpan delivery of ridiculous lines is when the movie is at its strongest. It's just frustrating to see the current kings of action and comedy let down by a movie in which the action is entirely dull and derivative, and the comedy is so absent that the only real laughs come from the outtakes playing over the final credits. It all has a feeling of 'she'll be right, mate', relying far too heavily on the celebrity and charisma of its leading men instead of giving them a clever, considered script through which to showcase all that they're capable of.
The film does also boast a handful of 'surprise cameos' that briefly recapture your attention, but they're not enough to cover up the gaping holes in plot or direction. Full of potential yet thin on substance, Central Intelligence is best seen as a challenge to the next writer-director to put this pair together. Imagine how brightly these two stars could shine if only they had a decent script.