Years after graduating high school, the former most popular kid in school reconnects with someone who was pretty much the opposite and is caught up in an intricate plot that threatens national security in Rawson Marshall Thuber’s Central Intelligence
As stories go it’s horribly generic and you’ll be able to see every plot beat come long before it happens. Most of the jokes are painfully obvious as well so those looking for the next big thing in comedy should look elsewhere.
The storytelling tries to throw a few curve balls with some mystery to it and a handful of twists that -in theory- will keep people guessing. I found it all painfully predictable but there’s an attempt to tell something a bit more complext than the material might otherwise allow for.
This film is all about the cast. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Kevin Hart make for a surprisingly watchable pair that provide some laughs just by having them together. It was a clever touch to have Hart play the straight man in the scenario which means that he dials back the traits that I usually find irritating about him. There are some moments where he goes on long rants but these are mercifully few and far between.
Johnson is definitely having a blast here playing a socially awkward badass. Looking at him is one big contradiction with his imposing physique contrasting his trademark fanny pack that he wears at all times and T-Shirts with unicorns on them. The whole idea is that he hasn’t really put the bullying behind him and is massively insecure in himself. This is repeated throughout the film and may of the extreme reactions he has to it being brought up are hilarious.
I’ve always thought Johnson is a talented actor and this film is a good example of why that is. His comic timing is near perfect, he’s believable in the action scenes and there’s just enough mystery to his character to make the audience question if he’s right or simply insane. Even if the film isn’t especially memorable his performance and character definitely is.
As a pairing, Hart and Johnson bounce off each other really well. I really enjoyed how Hart’s character, Calvin would protest everything that was going on around him and Johnson’s character, Bob would ignore him and only hear what he wants to hear. I wouldn’t object to seeing this double act with these sort of character traits again as I think this would work even better in a better film.
Other member of the cast are fairly mixed. Amy Ryan impresses as a shady CIA agent who mainly exists to get Calvin -and the audience- to doubt Bob’s sanity even more than they already are. Ryan brings something extra to the table due to her ability to mine comedy out of any scene.
Outside of Amy Ryan’s character the most significant supporting character is Calvin’s wife, Maggie (Danielle Nicolet). Her function is to be the thing that Calvin takes for granted when he obsesses about all of the regrets he has in his life. Nicolet is good enough in the role but her character is so paper thin considering how often she appears. With a better role she could have contributed massively to the comedy.
Jason Bateman has a very short appearance as a former school bully that actually manages to be quite amusing, Ryan Hansen has an even smaller role playing the character he always plays and Aaron Paul has a really small role that I won’t spoil in this review.
Despite how predictable the story is there is a really strong anti-bullying message that actually comes across as being fairly genuine for the most part. The idea of being the “fat kid” in school who turns all of that frustration into an obsession with fitness is a fairly old idea but it works well here due to how delusional Bob is much of the time.
There are many scenes devoted to telling the audience how bad bullying it is and how important self worth is so this film does have a really progressive message about self image and the importance of being comfortable in your own skin. No matter how by the numbers the rest of the film is, this is definitely enough to elevate the overall experience.
A fun if predictable experience that shines because of the chemistry between the two leads. Kevin Hart is nicely downplayed as the straight man and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson clearly has a blast playing the socially awkward badass. The plot is entirely predictable but the film boasts a strong anti-bullying and pro self worth message that definitely elevates it.
- the chemistry between the two leads
- Dwayne Johnson fully committing to the role
- a strong anti-bullying message
- a predictable plot
- some weak characterisation