Director: Rawson Marshall Thurper

Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Amy Ryan, Danielle Nicolet, Aaron Paul, Jason Bateman and Melissa McCarthy

Studio: Warner Bros.

Rated: PG

Running Time: 1 Hr, 47 Mins

Summer wouldn’t be complete without at least one good buddy movie. Buddy movies have been around longer than super hero epics and romantic comedies for a reason-the good ones embody everything enjoyable about going to the movies between May and September while the bad ones quickly fall off the radar and are forgotten. And the best part about successful buddy flicks? It’s the chemistry between the leads that make them stand out, and Central Intelligence is that move for 2016.

In 1996, Calvin “The Golden Jet” Joyner (Kevin Hart) graduates at the top of his class. An award wining athlete, an honour student adored and worshipped by the entire student body whose destined to marry the most beautiful girl in school, his fairy tale life has success written all over it. The world is his oyster and everyone expects big things once The Jet escapes the confines of high school. Robbie Weirdich (Dwayne Johnson) is the polar opposite. Mercilessly bullied because of his name, looks and weight, he disappears from sight after one final, horrible humiliation during his senior year.

Twenty years later Calvin is stuck in a dead end job and disappointed with his station in life. With his graduating class reunion looming, he wrestles with a sense of failure and can’t escape the shadow his promising teenage self cast. The day before the reunion, Calvin is mysteriously contacted by Robbie, who nobody’s seen since high school. Not only does Robbie have a new name (Bob Stone), but a new body as well, transforming his flab into rock hard muscle. But despite his new body, Bob retains the emotional and social maturity of a teenage outcast and continues to idolize Calvin (Calvin was one of the few who showed Bob any kindness in high school). It also turns out that Bob is a CIA agent wanted for treason and the murder of his partner (Aaron Paul) and Calvin soon finds himself tangled up with Bob while he’s being hunted by the entire CIA, lead by the relentless, no nonsense agent Harris (Amy Ryan).

The thing that makes Central Intelligence works is the chemistry Johnson and Hart share. The contrast between their screen characters is highlighted by the drastic difference in physical size and style between the two actors. Hart’s diminutive stature and restrained yet borderline hyperactive slapstick is as far as you can get from Johnson’s imposing, primal physicality. They’re the most lopsided bookends in movie history. And yet they have a great give and take relationship on screen. Nowhere is this more obvious then the scene in the therapist’s office (if you don’t shed at least one tear crying during that scene you probably don’t have a pulse).

Hart delivers exactly what is expected of him and his performance offers no surprises (it doesn’t have to, he contributes everything he was cast for), but Johnson steals the show. Not only does the former wrestling superstar kill his action scenes and match Hart joke for joke, he sells his misfit of a character perfectly, making his vulnerability and extraordinary social awkwardness perfectly believable.

Director Rawson Marshall Thurper realizes that the relationship between his two leads is the heart beat of this movie and clears everything else out of the way. The action is so-so, the story little more the a clothesline to hang jokes and sight gags on and there’s little else to really talk about, so he keeps everything focused on his two leading men, wisely allowing them to carry the movie. And if you doubt how much Hart and Johnson successfully play off each other, make sure you stick around for the blooper real during the credits. Some of its funnier then the actual stuff that made it into the final cut.

Central Intelligence probably won’t be a big blockbuster and likely won’t find it’s way into this year’s Top Ten Grossing Mega Movies, but it’s an amusing little action comedy that sells itself on the strength of it’s two leads. And it’s a nice diversion from the billion-dollar special effects extravaganzas that have become the hallmark of the summer movie season.

Shayne Kempton


2 thoughts on “SMART CHEMISTRY

  1. Totally believed Kevin Hart and Dwayne Johnson as onscreen buddies, and that’s why the movie worked. Enjoyed reading your review!

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