Central Intelligence (2016)


Bil’s rating (out of 5):  BB.  

USA, 2016.  New Line Cinema, Bluegrass Films, Perfect World PicturesPrincipato-Young Entertainment, Universal Pictures.  Story by , , Screenplay by Ike Barinholtz, David Stassen, Rawson Marshall Thurber.  Cinematography by .  Produced by , , .  Music by , .  Production Design by .  Costume Design by .  Film Editing by , .

Kevin Hart was the very height of popularity in high school, and now twenty years later is happily married but bored to death in his job as an accountant.  He doesn’t want to go to his high school reunion, but he gets a Facebook message from an old friend who was bullied in their youth and, on a whim, decides to go for drinks with him.  That kid has turned into Dwayne Johnson (aka The Rock), now made of giant muscles but still full of the joy that made him such an avid dancer in his teen years, and happy to see Hart considering that the former football star was the only person who was ever kind to him when they were younger.  Hanging out with Johnson soon turns out to be more than Hart bargained for, as CIA operatives show up on his doorstep and inform him that his newly reconnected friend is actually a rogue operative wanted for murder and treason.  The agency (headed up by an ill-used Amy Ryan) believes that Johnson is behind the upcoming sale of weapons secrets to an enemy terrorist, while he tells Hart that he’s actually on the hunt for the real bad guy; our hero doesn’t know who to believe, but it doesn’t matter since this graceless action comedy has him being constantly thrown into the middle of violent melees whether he wants it or not.  The combination of these winsome personalities and an easy plot to throw out and cash in on should result in something a lot more spry than what we get here: the plot is easy to see coming and yet takes forever to get going, while many of the jokey dialogue between the leads, much of which is likely improvised, always feels desperate and tired and never finds its flow.  It’s got the kind of ingredients that should make it an easy pleasure (including a cameo by Jason Bateman), but thanks to lazy direction and phoned in writing, even the lowered expectations one brings to this kind of movie will be disappointed in the result.

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