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CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE

SYNOPSIS: Their looming 20th anniversary high school reunion reconnects the grown up Calvin Joyner (Kevin Hart), now a mild-mannered accountant, with a much changed Bob Stone (Dwayne Johnson), who lures Calvin into the world of international espionage.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Central Intelligence is what's known in Hollywood as 'high concept'. It actually means low concept, or simple concept. As was the case with Twins (1988) in which the producer pitched the film simply as "Arnie and Danny DeVito are twins..." The same high concept is applicable here, in which two vastly different characters are thrown together. In this caser, it's Dwayne Johnson as the big, tough guy, Bob, and Kevin Hart is Calvin, his diminutive opposite - and not just physically. A CIA agent and a meek accountant.

The film takes its time setting up the moment of bonding 20 years earlier at Central High School, when Bob is the school's overweight and bullied laughing stock. Calvin is the only one to not laugh at him and to come to his aid. The film seeds its anti-bullying message here, and two hours later it delivers the payoff. It could have done it a bit quicker by skipping some extraneous scenes in the middle.

In the film's favour, there are plenty of fun moments, serious moments, action moments and embarrassing moments. The high concept is milked, but it doesn't play as a one joke story. Driven by a high scale plot about CIA codes and international terrorism, we are kept guessing (on the serious side) about the real villain's identity. And as is Hollywood's way, no amount of comedy will silence those guns; gunplay and physical violence are plentiful, with the usual casual attitude to collateral damage when a fight breaks out. Secret service supports are either shot or maimed with brute force, as are a number of bad guys.

But it's the odd couple buddy movie premise that is central to the film, and Johnson and Hart make the best of it, enjoying the ridiculous scenes and playing straight whenever possible in the comedic scenes. Danielle Nicolet is terrific as Calvin's caring wife Maggie, as is Amy Ryan as Agent Pamela Harris, always hot on their heels (both with significant roles). Jason Bateman has a squirmy cameo which he does with gusto, as does Aaron Paul in a crucial role - with limited screen time.

It's an entertaining popcorn movie sure to satisfy its target market of younger audiences, done with all the polish that Hollywood money can buy.

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 1
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE (M)
(US, 2016)

CAST: Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Amy Ryan, Danielle Nicolet, Aaron Paul, Ryan Hansen, Brett Azar

PRODUCER: Peter Principato, Scott Stuber, Paul Young

DIRECTOR: Rawson Marshall Thurber

SCRIPT: Ike Barinholtz, David Stassen, Rawson Marshall Thurber

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Barry Peterson

EDITOR: Michael L. Sale

MUSIC: Ludwig Goransson, Theodore Shapiro

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Stephen J. Lineweaver

RUNNING TIME: 114 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Universal

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: June 30, 2016







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