As someone who peaked in high school, I can definitely relate to Calvin Joyner, Kevin Hart’s character in the high voltage buddy comedy, Central Intelligence. In the flashback that opens the movie, Calvin is on top of his teenage world. He’s got his letterman’s jacket and a captive high school audience, and as he speaks hopefully about the future, we know things can only go up.
Flash forward twenty years – and OMG, my twenty year high school reunion is next year! I mean, Calvin is a middling account. Having achieved zero great things, outside of maintaining a steady, well paying job, Calvin doesn’t feel like facing up to his former classmates at his upcoming reunion. His wife and high school girlfriend, Maggie (Danielle Nicolet), wants to attend, but they may need to work on their marriage first.
It’s at this low point that Dwayne Johnson zips in, brandishing a tight unicorn shirt and opinions on Molly Ringwald movies. Robbie Weirdicht is another one of Calvin’s high school classmates, but unlike the star athlete, Robbie was an overweight outcast who was mercilessly bullied. During one especially humiliating incident, Calvin was the lone person who showed Robbie any decency, and it’s an act of kindness Robbie hasn’t forgotten.
His idea of returning the good deed, however, is bonkers and the basis for the convoluted plot. I’ve watched the movie twice and still can’t say for certain what is happening except that Robbie is a rogue CIA agent who needs Calvin’s mad accounting skills. Robbie is suspected of killing his partner and auctioning off some satellite codes under the alias Black Badger. He recruits an unwilling Calvin to help him clear his name, and shit goes crazy.
I’m not sure that the finer details of why the CIA is out to get Robbie or who else wants him dead matter. What does matter is that there are shootouts and fights galore. There’s the usual tearing up of a car park and an abandoned warehouse. The dynamic duo hijack a private plane at one point. They sail out an office building in a mail cart and land on an inflatable gorilla. Also someone explodes in an elevator.
It’s entertaining enough but doesn’t stick. The action has plenty of energy but not much personality. What’s more memorable is the partnership between Hart and Johnson. Their chemistry has spawned at least two pairings in the rebooted Jumanji films, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see this odd couple pop up elsewhere. A little role reversal works in their favor as well. Hart is as peppery as ever and still given to long-winded rants, but Calvin’s the cautious, level-headed brain of the two. Robbie is more freewheeling; he can’t shake his traumatic high school experience, which allows him to embrace his quirkiness, hence the unicorns and teen romcoms, but which also means he can’t hide behind his intimidating physique. When he confronts his still smarmy nemesis (Jason Bateman), Robbie retreats to his teenage self. That’s one upside. For a movie that is packed with so much machismo, it’s nice to know there’s also room for vulnerability.
Prod: Scott Stuber, Peter Principato, Paul Young, Michael Fottrell, Ed Helms
Dir: Rawson M. Thurber
Writer: Ike Barinholtz, David Stassen, Rawson M. Thurber
Cast: Kevin Hart, Dwayne Johnson, Amy Ryan, Danielle Nicolet, Jason Bateman, Aaron Paul, Kumail Nanjiani, Melissa McCarthy
Time: 107 min
Country: United States