Movie Review: Central Intelligence
Rating: 2 and 1/2 Stars
Kevin Hart has never been too appealing to me as an actor or comedian, and it’s not a fault of his talent, because in both faucets he is skilled and plays well to a mainstream audience.
I enjoy Dwayne Johnson as The Rock, but he’s never been in a movie that I’ve ever found myself saying, “I want to watch that movie.”
Central Intelligence piqued my interest from the positive criticism it was receiving. So I put off Captain America again and it was worth it.
Not because Central Intelligence is a great film, but because it provides a laundry list of talking points about the action-comedy/buddy cop genre.
Hart has already done this sort of rodeo in Ride Along with Ice Cube which garnered enough to get a second go.
Central Intelligence places its focus on the dynamic of Hart and Johnson for good reason. Anytime the film deviated its attention to the loosely strewn plot, the movie was bland and uninspired. The plot needed simplifying.
This was truthfully a 2 star film that could’ve been a 3 star film. I give Kevin Hart’s efforts the extra half star.
Hart and Johnson’s best moments were in situational comedy pieces. A scene where Hart attempts to escape Johnson only to find that Johnson effectively impersonates his marriage counselor leads to the best scene and comedy in the film. Central Intelligence at its best places Johnson and Hart into the wackiest possible situations, and a solid amount of scenes certainly did that, but the plot and Disney-like character development eventually puts a damper on the hilarity.
Johnson plays a guy who was bullied in high school and has some serious childhood regression issues. Bullying becomes a major PSA from start to finish. Johnson was “Fat Robbie”, and with 20 years of working out and a couple surgeries he’s secretly a CIA agent and a not so secretly very stereotypically metrosexual or bisexual. If those terms don’t suit your fancy, Johnson is as flamboyant as a 6'5, 260 lb, friendly giant can be.
I wouldn’t mention Johnson’s sexual tendencies in the film if it wasn’t such a big part of the film’s writing and character development. I’m assuming there were supposed to be moments that Johnson’s character is meant to draw laughs from a big guy with a fetish for unicorns and Sixteen Candles, but I never managed to draw any laughter.
Otherwise, Johnson really didn’t have too much given to him outside of a couple one-liners, but credit where its due, he owned his character and struck a balance with Hart’s little man gig.
Hart plays an accountant with a cliche on the edge of a cliff marriage. Johnson needs Hart to do accountant stuff to catch an infamous terrorist, “Black Badger” (which had some real potential for a Usual Suspects twist, the actual “twist” was underwhelming) who will do something bad with some codes. Johnson is on the run from the CIA who have accused him of killing his own partner and being psychotic. It’s hard to blame the CIA, Johnson wore a fanny pack for most of the film.
Sidebar: I felt there was a real opportunity missed for a Black Badger joke somewhere in this film for as many times as the mysterious figure was mentioned.
Mainbar: Hart and Johnson have some great back and forth’s. No surprise, if you wanted to see this film, that’s what got you in the seat.
What became the breakthrough was Kevin Hart being the straight man actor with well-timed Hart outbursts of rage and quick mouthed wordplay. art is also very good at managing and timing his facial expressions and body language which is an underappreciated trait of good comedy.
You’d imagine Hart would be the nonsensical character because of how high energy he is, but rather, Hart’s composure and hilarious reactions kept me invested.
The other weak point of the film was Johnson’s character development. The whole bullying childhood regression angle didn’t really add any substance. The film tries to sell you on why Johnson is so off kilter but it stretches the imagination so far whilst Hart’s character makes a lot more sense. (Hart) The overachiever turned underachiever who needs a nip in the bud versus, (Johnson) the highly dangerous and effective CIA agent who likes ponies and strange fetish videos, yet has high emotional intelligence, yet can’t manage his own personal demons. Yes you can contextualize it, but it doesn’t translate on screen.
Central Intelligence is on the right track to being a well-done action comedy a la 21 Jump Street (the barometer for great “action” comedy). It’s functional and watchable, but not a must-see.