Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to not laugh at least once during Kevin Hart and Dwayne Johnson’s fantastically funny spy comedy. If you succeed, you’re probably dead inside. Sorry.
⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Kudos to the bright advertising exec who came up with the witty tagline for Central Intelligence – every poster and trailer obnoxiously declared that “saving the world takes a little Hart and a big Johnson”. Not only does the quip grab your attention and make you groan and/or grin, it also guarantees that audiences have their expectations suitably adjusted for what the movie has planned; a goofy spy adventure where two of the hottest comedic actors in 2016, Kevin Hart and Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, get into all sorts of scrapes and scuffles with their tongues planted firmly in cheek.
Hart plays Calvin Joyner, a former high-school superstar who now finds himself trapped in a dead-end accounting job; his married life to Maggie (Danielle Nicolet) is going nowhere and he’s consistently overlooked for that big promotion at work. However, when an old high school acquaintance turned lethal CIA agent, Bob Stone (Johnson), rolls into town looking for help, Calvin’s mundane status quo is rudely interrupted as the two are swept up in a twisty espionage plot that threatens the safety of the Western world.
If it weren’t for the dynamite chemistry that Hart and Johnson share, Central Intelligence would be gathering dust on the bottom of the bargain bin before long. Strip away their sizzling rapport and you’re left with a painfully run-of-the-mill spy film that does nothing new and contains very little action. When the film shifts focus away from their on-screen partnership, it gets bogged down in waffly jargon and uninspired action set pieces.
However, at the end of the day, none of that truly matters. It’s all just background noise that needs to be there even though you wish it weren’t. Instead, the film truly excels when it hones in on Hart and Johnson, the former of whom is playing against type by becoming the ‘straight guy’ to Johnson’s fanny-pack wearing, unicorn-loving Jason Bourne. This subversion works amazingly well; The Rock flexes every comedic muscle in his bulging physique en route to his funniest role to date whilst Hart succeeds in simultaneously being more animated and less irritating than ever.
As action-comedies go, Central Intelligence is far from the best; it’s easily eclipsed by Shane Black’s The Nice Guys, a recent example of both electric chemistry and compelling mystery. But as silly slices of escapist entertainment go, you could also do a lot worse than Central Intelligence. It has charm and wit for days, with cameos galore and a knowing, self-referential screenplay that knows better than anyone that it’s just throwaway fun.
Central Intelligence is available in Australian cinemas from June 30
Image (c) Universal Pictures 2016