Kevin Hart has been teaming up with various people like Ice Cube and Will Ferrell but he may have finally found his match with The Rock, as the pair are a fantastic comedic duo in Central Intelligence.
Hart plays Calvin Joyner, who used to be the most popular guy in high school and voted Most Likely to Succeed but flash forward 20 years and he’s now a lowly account at a firm. He gets a mysterious Facebook request right before his 20 year high school reunion from a Bob Stone and is shocked to find that it’s Robbie Weirdicht (Dwayne Johnson), who has transformed himself from a chubby, shy nerd into a bad ass CIA agent who is “basically Hercules” (in one of many great inside jokes). Bob needs Calvin’s accounting skills to figure out what the accounts mean on a black market auction site but his former supervisor and a team of agents quickly force the duo on the run. The actual CIA plot is kind of flimsy and it wraps up a little too neatly without really explaining just what the hell was going on but as a track to follow to the various jokes and action sequences, it’s fine.
Hart and The Rock are, as mentioned above, a fantastic comedic duo. Just physically they already make you laugh standing next to each other but Hart’s motor mouthed panic works perfectly against The Rock’s cool charisma. It’s not just the typical Rock though, he’s got this wonderfully strange balance between being a bad ass killing machine and still the nerdy kid from high school who loves the movie Sixteen Candles and unicorns (“I’m big into ‘corns bro!”) and is also strangely obsessed with Calvin, the only person who was ever nice to him before he transformed himself. He’s also pretty much psyched and optimistic about everything, even life threatening shootouts or jumps out of a multi-story office building. Amy Ryan plays Agent Harris, the main agent pursuing Calvin and Bob and she has some fun deadpan reactions to both characters and there’s a couple of fun cameos sprinkled throughout as well.
As great as the comedic bits are, it’s clear Rawson Thurber Marshall, who also directed We’re the Millers and Dodgeball, is lacking in his grasp of action sequences. Most of them are pretty incoherent, favoring the up close shaky style of Bourne but without Paul Greengrass’ gritty realism or eye. There is one excellent fight sequence set in Calvin’s office where The Rock does get to unleash his inner Bourne, pulling off seemingly impossible shots to take down lights or tossing a printer’s toner cartridge to provide cover and even uses a banana to devastating effect. Since you have The Rock and are focusing on the CIA, it’s clearly got to have some action but I wouldn’t have minded less action and more sequences like a marriage counseling session where The Rock impersonates a Dr. Dan, whom Calvin and his wife are supposed to see, where the chemistry of The Rock and Hart shines.
Central Intelligence is a ton of fun and definitely worth checking out if you’re a fan of both or either of it’s leads, as you get the best of both their personalities as they mesh in an excellent way, despite a bit of a lackluster spy story. I would love to see more from the duo, not even a Central Intelligence 2 but just throwing them into different situations and them letting them play off each other.