Central Intelligence review: Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart save it, just about
Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Aaron Paul, Jason Bateman, Amy Ryan
Director: Rawson Marshall Thurber
Call it the superhero scourge or the blight of franchise but the big-dollar cinema, which invariably has few brave men saving the world – sometimes in spandex, sometimes not-- seems to be throttling everything else. If a courageous film like the quirky buddy comedy Nice Guys finds its way to the theatres, we the audience decide to look the other way.
You, O Hollywood, have conditioned us. Even when we are talking bromance, we want it with a generous serving of formula, and – please, oh please – someone save the world. Enter Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart and buddy comedy 101, Central Intelligence. The film keeps so much to the bromance formula that it is funny in itself: We get jokes on anatomy (Dwayne Johnson’s character is called Robbie Weirdicht), fart jokes, the mandatory marital counselling session and other vulgar gags.
But leave it to the pocket-sized Hart and his buddy, who is not called The Rock for nothing, to squeeze out the comic juice from this unevenly-paced thriller comedy. There may be crater-sized script holes but you still guffaw as this unlikely pair goes about sending CIA in a tizzy.
Now, for the plot: 20 years ago, Hart was the star of his high school, destined to great things while an overweight, awkward Johnson was the butt of all jokes. When Robbie is pushed into the school assembly naked by bullies, Hart is the only one who comes to his rescue.
Ladies and gentlemen, a fat Dwayne Johnson
Fast forward two decades and Hart is a burnt out accountant and Johnson is, well, back to being the buffed, muscled Johnson we know. He is also a CIA agent who may or may not have gone rogue. He definitely idolises Hart still and gets in touch with him. CIA boss woman (Amy Ryan) follows suit and a kerfuffle ensues. At stake are secret nuke codes which can destroy the world.
Hart and Johnson share an easy chemistry and there are enough lines in there to keep the jokes coming. Johnson calls a befuddled Hart “snacksized Denzel” and “like a black Will Smith” at various points in the film.
The muscled Johnson plays Robbie like a goofball who is still struck on Hart’s high school charisma. His love for unicorns, fanny packs and schmaltzy films keep the laughs coming. And hell, who has a name like Sting, or The Rock for crying out loud?
The trouble lies in director Rawson Marshall Thurber’s patchy handling of the story. There are moments when the film is slow and sluggish, and then it is on steroids with hyper action. Those are the moments when you thanks god that you are in this ride with a big Johnson and a little Hart. Also, watch out for the cameos both credited and not.