One of the great taglines of modern cinema – but what is the film like?
Kevin Hart and Dwight Johnson are two of the most successful men in all of Hollywood. Both made the top 20 of the recent Forbes Celebrity Rich List, and deservedly so through their sheer hard work. Both have had a series of successful films, with Hart topping up his earnings with a dozens and dozens of sold-out arena and stadium stand-up shows. Here they team up in the latest film from Rowan Marshall Thurber, the director of Dodgeball and We’re The Millers.
In 1996, Calvin “The Golden Jet” Joyner (Hart) is voted most likely to succeed at the High School Prom, while at the same time Robbie Weirdicht (Johnson) is a misfit being picked on by the school’s bullies. As Joyner gives his acceptance speech (imploring his class mates to push themselves every day and never settle for second best), Weirdicht is pulled out of the shower and thrown naked into the middle of the gym, in front of the entire high school. Everyone – including the principle – laughs at Weirdicht unmercifully, apart from Toyner, who takes pity and hands over his letter jacket to cover his modesty.
In the present day however, Calvin is working as an accountant in an dead-end office job, and has just seen his former assistant get the promotion he wants. The thought of his 20 year High School reunion brings up some bad feelings for him, that his life peaked in high school and that everything since has been downhill. A friend request from “Bob Stone” leads to meeting up for a few beers with Weirdicht, who now looks like Dwayne Johnson. Bob still has some unusual interests (he thought high school would be like 16 Candles, and he would be like Molly Ringwald) and still remembers Calvin as The Golden Jet. The two have a great time catching up, and as they are about to go their separate ways, but Bob makes one last request, for Calvin to look over some accounts. Bob spends the night on Calvin’s couch, which in turn results in the CIA (led by Agent Harris, played by Amy Ryan who was Holly Flax in The Office) arriving the next morning, on the hunt for Bob Stone, who is a rogue agent who has apparently stolen satellite codes and killed his partner.
Stone disappears, but later turns up at Calvin’s work, leading to the CIA hunting both of them after a daring escape. Stone claims he is trying to stop the satellite codes being by ambushing the buyer when the auction for them ends (that is the accounts he got Calvin to look at), the CIA thinks he is behind the whole thing, and Calvin is stuck in the middle, unsure of who to trust, but wants to believe Stone, despite all of the evidence seemingly pointing in the opposite direction.
Like any comedy, your mileage will vary (especially with Kevin Hart) but I found this very, very funny. Hart is actually pretty restrained through the film, and Dwayne Johnson is great as expected, playing a character with a bit more depth (only a bit, but at least they put the effort in) than his usual role. The film plays with plenty of tropes from these types of film. A click on a friend requests leads to an immediate phone call, Enemy Of The State style, only for Calvin to be relieved that it is only his wife. There are plenty of funny lines (Bob refers to Calvin and his wife as “a power couple like Taylor Swift and whoever she is dating”) that means the film would work as a straight comedy, even without the skilled delivery of Johnson and Hart.
With this being an action comedy, there does need to be a bit more. Dwayne Johnson really delivers here, but so does Hart when needed. This is similar to last year’s Spy, in that both the action and the comedy work very well. And if you were unfortunate enough to endure this year’s Grimsby, you will know how difficult that can be to get right.
There are a few moments that don’t work, but they are definitely outweighed by the moments that do. Central Intelligence is probably my favourite Kevin Hart film, one of my favourite Dwayne Johnson comedy roles (he does this buddy comedy stuff so well), and one of my favourite comedies of 2016. With this and Ghostbusters, it’s been a good week for my funny bone!
Central Intelligence is in cinemas now.
Until next time, stay gold, Ponyboy, stay gold. See you soonish.
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