Central Intelligence

Year: 2016
Studio: New Line
Director: Rawson Marshall Thurber
Writer: Ike Barinholtz/David Stassen/Rawson Marshall Thurber
Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Amy Ryan, Jason Bateman, Aaron Paul

Everything about Central Intelligence should have gone right, but I found it a curiously flat and muddled mess. Halfway between Lethal Weapon (buddy cop thriller with a comic tone) and Horrible Bosses (fairly dumb idea carried by the chemistry between the leads), it should have had some cool thrills and been a laugh riot – especially with actors like Kevin Hart and Dwayne Johnson who can do this sort of thing blindfolded.

So why, despite both of them being funny guys who have every reason to shine together as they bounce off each other, does it feel so lifeless and forced?

But it's not just the characters or the actors – the story itself has more promise than it delivers. High school football hero Calvin (Hart) is accepting yet another accolade when some bullies drag fat kid Bob (Johnson – his face CGI-ed onto a tubby actor) out of the showers and throw him into the gym in front of everyone. Only Calvin helps him, and everyone goes on with their lives.

For Calvin, it's an uninspired job in an uninspiring life 20 years later, left wondering if he peaked in high school and whether life will ever be that good again. When Bob comes back into his life thanks to a Facebook search, he's a little weird in his continued adulation of Calvin and a lot different physically, now a bulging-muscled CIA agent.

He's come to Calvin for help disentangling an international spy deal gone wrong thanks to the latter's work as a forensic accountant, and despite his protestations Calvin is soon up to his neck in gunfights and fistfights while his erstwhile partner seems to love every minute of it.

There are some funny lines in the script, but neither gives them much panache. Hart works best when he's off the chain, yapping and leaping like an angry puppy dog, and while Johnson has the chops and comic ability to play a nerd trapped in a Herculean body who doesn't know how cool he is, the pair of them just don't gel.

Usually that's where the comic chemistry and banter would paper over the stupid plot like it has everywhere from Horrible Bosses to Get Hard, but in this case it's been sucked out of the movie to leave a vacuum.

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