Central Intelligence: Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart deliver a hit - Baltimore Post-ExaminerBaltimore Post-Examiner

Central Intelligence: Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart deliver a hit

3 out of 4 stars

Go ahead and add this to Dwayne Johnson’s arsenal of acting skills – he’s hysterical.

Johnson has become one of the industry’s biggest draws by playing roles that are aligned with his nickname he used during a storied professional wrestling career: The Rock. He’s always been the big bad ass who beats to bad guys en route to stealing a woman’s heart or any chance evil has at conquering good.

But after more than a decade of using his hands to grab the audience’s attention by throwing a punch or pulling the trigger, it’s Johnson’s mouth in Central Intelligence that delivers the biggest blows.

At first glance, Johnson, with his trademark bodybuilder physique of someone who hasn’t eaten a piece of candy since the Clinton Administration, looks the same as he has since he was smacking Memnon around in 2002’s The Scorpion King.

In Central Intelligence, he’s an uber dork, a nerd who covers his chiseled frame with a tight-fitting unicorn T-shirt. He also rocks a fanny pack like no one’s business, even when he sleeps, and makes Twilight references – not exactly what you expect to hear from a dude who can bench a Volkswagen.

But Johnson’s unorthodox style makes him funny – even more funny than his sidekick, Kevin Hart, which Will Ferrell or Ice Cube couldn’t do in Get Hard or Ride Along, respectively.

Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart are so good in Central Intelligence you can bet there will be a sequel in two years. (New Line Cinema)

Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart are so good in Central Intelligence you can bet there will be a sequel in two years. (New Line Cinema)

The result is nearly two hours of nonstop jokes that are so fast and furious the audience hasn’t recovered from the first one-liner before the next one is delivered.

The success of buddy movies is tied to the leading characters’ chemistry. Nick Nolte and Eddie Murphy were great in 48 Hours, and Mel Gibson and Danny Glover gave some of the best performances of their careers in the Lethal Weapon franchise. Even Chris Tucker and Jackie Chan brought out the best in each other in Rush Hour, just like Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy did in The Heat.

But none of those duos are as funny as Johnson and Hart, whose chemistry enables them to take their bromance to new level as they try to keep classified information from falling into the wrong hands.

Johnson plays Bob Stone, a CIA agent, while Hart plays Calvin Joyner. They went to the same high school but had completely different experiences. As a fat dork, Johnson’s character was bullied beyond belief while Joyner – nicknamed the “Golden Jet” – was the all-everything jock and drama club star who was the most popular kid in school.

One fateful afternoon, they crossed paths, when Joyner gives Johnson his letter jacket after he was the target in perhaps the meanest prank in movie history.

A decade later, Calvin, mired in a job he hates, receives a Facebook friend request from some guy named “Bob Stone.” He accepts – mainly out of curiosity – and meets Johnson’s character, who is in town for the Class of 1996’s 20-year reunion, at a bar for drinks.

Of course, it’s all a rouse, as Johnson convinces Calvin to acquire some valuable information off his computer. And of course, the CIA soon arrives, bullets are fired and guys are jumping out of buildings and landing unscathed.

But it doesn’t matter. Johnson’s and Hart’s hysterical dialogue is more powerful than any of their punches, which in terms of violence are more Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles than Deadpool.

Director Rawson Marshall Thurber (We’re the Millers), makes very few mistakes in bringing to life a script written by Ike Barinholtz and David Stassen.

But in the end, does Central Intelligence‘s disjointed plot really matter? Hart is always worth a good laugh. And Johnson is well, Johnson – an indestructible force whose strongest power is turning movies into cash cows.

Just look at his last film: San Andreas. It wasn’t his best work and it wasn’t even good.

It still made $473 million worldwide last year, which is why there’s going to be a sequel.

The same will be said for Central Intelligence, as you can bet Hart and Johnson will be hooking up in a couple years for part two.

About the author

Jon Gallo

Jon Gallo is an award-winning journalist and editor with 19 years of experience, including stints as a staff writer at The Washington Post and sports editor at The Baltimore Examiner. He also believes the government should declare federal holidays in honor of the following: the Round of 64 of the NCAA men's basketball tournament; the Friday of the Sweet 16; the Monday after the Super Bowl; and of course, the day after the release of the latest Madden NFL video game. Contact the author.

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