Central Intelligence review: Hart and Johnson have off-the-scale comic chemistry
Film review: Central Intelligence

Matthew Turner casts his critical eye over buddy comedy Central Intelligence, starring Kevin Hart and Dwayne Johnson

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A mild-mannered accountant finds himself in deep trouble after an old high school buddy turns out to be a rogue CIA agent

Director: Rawson Marshall Thurber
Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Amy Ryan, Aaron Paul
Genre: Action / Comedy
Country: USA
Release date: July 1, 2016
Cert: 12A
Running time: 108 mins

After co-starring alongside Ice Cube in the Ride Along movies and Will Ferrell in Get Hard, pint-sized motormouth Kevin Hart’s apparent quest for the perfect comic partner could well be at an end with this very funny action comedy, which pairs him with the formidable form of Dwayne Johnson to sizeable comedic effect.

Fortunately, Hart is effectively playing the straight role this time around, which makes him significantly less irritating than he has been in some of his previous screen appearances. As a result, this is perhaps Hart’s funniest film to date.

Hilarious comic chemistry

Hart stars as Calvin Joyner, a bored accountant who’s all too aware that he never fulfilled the promise he showed in high school and has no intention of attending the upcoming reunion.

Out of the blue, Calvin receives a Facebook friend request from old buddy Robbie Weirdicht (Johnson), who was once a bullied fat kid, but is now a mountain of pure muscle who still idolises Calvin for the kindness he showed him in school.

However, an innocent catch-up night soon takes a crazy turn, as Robbie reveals he’s a framed-and-on-the-run CIA agent who needs Calvin’s help to track some stolen spy satellite data.

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The film’s smirk-inducing tag-line trumpets the inclusion of “a little Hart and a big Johnson” (Hart’s comparatively small size is a running joke – one character gets a big laugh just by calling him ‘Ant-Man’), but it could also refer to his relatively reined-in performance, which proves that a little does indeed go a long way.

Most importantly, Hart sparks genuinely hilarious comic chemistry with Johnson, who, in turn, gets to indulge his appealingly goofy side as well as his action chops.

Their relationship is given an added boost by a sharply observed script that allows for some affecting character work. Robbie has clearly been deeply affected by his high school trauma (there’s a commendably strong anti-bullying message) and it just might have pushed him over the edge.

Amusing cameo appearances

In addition, the script is packed with great one-liners (“You’re like a black Will Smith!”) and has a lot of fun with various movie and pop culture references, including a Taylor Swift joke that’s approximately fifty times funnier now than it was when it was written.

There’s also strong comic support from Amy Ryan as Robbie’s no-nonsense CIA boss, as well as a host of amusing cameo appearances that it would be churlish to spoil here.

If the film has a flaw, it’s only that director Thurber is clearly more suited to comedy and timing than he is to action sequences, though he does pull off an enjoyable office-based set-piece that delivers both laughs and thrills.

Worth seeing?

Hart and Johnson’s off-the-scale comic chemistry ensures you’ll spend the entire movie alternating between laughing out loud and grinning like an idiot. Here’s hoping they work together again.

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