Central Intelligence, directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber, is an action comedy that’s sneaky intelligent and executed deftly. Written by Thurber and a team of David Stassen, Ike Barinholtz, and Peter Seinfeld, it’s a film with loads of comedic subtext, a story that grabs the audience from the onset, and keeps them engaged throughout.
Johnson and Hart play two guys who attended high school together in 1996. Back in the day, Johnson was the chubby kid, who showered alone, and rocked out to En Vogue. Hart was the most popular kid in high school, voted homecoming king, and voted most likely to succeed. When Johnson is the victim of a cruel senior prank (anyone who’s seen the trailer knows what I am referring to), Hart was the only person who showed kindness during his darkest moments.
Fast-forward 20 years, and now Hart is a junior accountant who wonders what has happened to his glory days. In contrast, Johnson has transformed himself into a ripped, unicorn loving, Molly Ringwald adoring CIA Operative with the impulse to leap into danger. Johnson is currently a wanted man as the CIA has been lead to believe that he’s gone rogue and is now a terrorist, code name “The Black Badger.”
Central Intelligence is intelligently written. Stassen, Barinholtz, and Steinfield who are all writers on The Mindy Project are all incredibly gifted at crafting comedic scenes stemming from a character’s quirks. Example: In the pilot when Mindy attempted once more to solve her problems in the most grandiose way possible by getting plastered and riding her bike over to her ex-boyfriend’s house to win him back only to crash into her pool.
Johnson’s character, Bob Stone, is loaded with quirks ranging from an unhealthy fascination with the movie Sixteen Candles, seemingly loving 90’s pop culture way too much, and a strong love for Unicorns or, as he calls them, “Corns.” It seems they saw the potential in shying away from having Dwayne Johnson play his typical character, and they were rewarded with a fabulous performance. It certainly was refreshing to see Thurber return to his risk-taking roots after playing it safe in We’re The Millers. Remember, Thurber directed Dodgeball and made the unusual decision of casting Ben Stiller as the villain in Dodgeball ( which at the point in his career he had never played before in feature film) and look how that turned out.
Hart slips into the role of the slightly rational sidekick superbly. I’ll have to admit that there was doubts but those did evaporate when he was delivering lines reminiscent of Detective Murtaugh chastising Detective Riggs in the original Lethal Weapon throughout the film.
The only glaring negative in Central Intelligence is when Hart and Johnson had scenes without one another. When Hart is in scenes with his on-screen wife (Danielle Nicolet), the chemistry is missing. You could see him pressing a little but it seems as if Hart and Nicolet were going through the motions in the few moments they are on screen together. Johnson fairs slightly better but not by much. If the script was tweaked just slightly to allow for more scenes between Johnson and Hart, it would have resulted in making a goof film a great one.