Central Intelligence

CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE. US. 2016. Starring Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Danielle Nicolette, Jason Bateman, Aaron Paul, Dylan Boyak, Thomas Kretchmer. Directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber. 114 minutes Rated M (Violence, sexual references and coarse language).

At times the audience might wonder about how much intelligence there is in this film. There is quite a lot of spoof, sendup of CIA agents and activities, and quite a lot of amusing dialogue and repartee, especially for film buffs and references to films and film stars (often at Kevin Hart’s expense, as a half pint Denzel or as a black Will Smith!).

This is an amusing buddy movie for a Night out, not for research on American methods of maintaining national security.For critics who are of a more serious frame of mind, it might be seen as enjoyably entertaining, a guilty pleasure.

The opening is in 1996 at Central High in Maryland, where Kevin Hart plays Calvin, The Golden captured, the top sportsmen, the top personality, the student who is most likely to succeed. On the other hand there is the over-large Bob, bullied by the smart students and humiliated during the final assembly, everybody laughing at him, dragged in naked from the shower, Calvin offering him a coat to save him further embarrassment.

Then it is 20 years on with Calvin not having achieved what he might have, an accountant in and office, looked over for promotion, but happily married to his high school sweetheart. Kevin Hart is sometimes an acquired taste but, after his performance in The Wedding Ringer, and despite About Last Night, this reviewer found his sometimes manic performance quite enjoyable. Into his life comes Bob, Dwayne Johnson, larger-than-life, not the Bob that everybody remembers from those school days.

Bob has a great admiration for Calvin, grateful for his intervention in the past, and goes out for a drink with him, defends him against toughs in a bar, takes in on a bike ride, want some help with computer data and then bunks down for the night at Calvin’s. So far, so puzzling for Calvin – but, worse, when agent Harris and her men turn up at his front door looking for Bob who is considered a traitor to his country. Then a mad pursuit begins.

Calvin wants out. Bob, ever genial, tells him he is in. In an amusing scene, Calvin turns up for marriage therapy with his wife only to find that Bob has taken the psychologist’s place and there is some spoof about intense therapy. In order to get more information from a computer, Calvin takes him to see Trevor, the leader of the bullies of the past. He is played by Jason Bateman showing that he could have been cast as one of the Horrible Bosses.

It gets rather complicated, especially for Calvin, and he and the audience are not too sure at times whether Bob is a traitor. But, after Bob hijacks a small plane to fly from Maryland to Boston, there is a showdown, the selling of data to a foreign power, the unmasking of the traitor whose nickname is The Black Badger.

It is the night for the 20th reunion for the class of 96, Calvin not wanting to go because he feels he hasn’t achieved enough, but Bob getting there on time and Bob becoming the centre of attention, even of Melissa McCarthy in a welcome cameo.

And, as if you didn’t know, Calvin finds that his career as a CIA agent would be much more fulfilling than being an accountant.

Universal     Released June 30th

Peter Malone MSC is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.

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