The story follows a one-time bullied geek, Bob (Johnson), who grew up to be a lethal CIA agent, coming home for his high school reunion. Claiming to be on a top-secret case, Bob enlists the help of former "big man on campus," Calvin (Hart), now an accountant who misses his glory days. But before the staid numbers-cruncher realizes what he's getting into, it's too late to get out, as his increasingly unpredictable new friend drags him through a world of shoot-outs, double-crosses and espionage that could get them both killed in more ways than Calvin can count. (from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment)
The buddy action film has been around for decades, but when it's done right, it's cinematic gold. Lethal Weapon is famous for this, but pairings I've personally loved through the years have been the Rush Hour and Shanghia Noon series, as well as Men In Black. Central Intelligence teams up Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson with comedian Kevin Hart for an unlikely match-up that has Johnson's CIA agent character Bob Stone dragging accountant Calvin Joyner reluctantly into a dangerous mission. The film opens with a glance into the duo's history, as Bob was the most ridiculed student in high school and Calvin was the most popular. The two don't stay in touch for two decades until the eve of their 20-year high school reunion. It's then that Bob reaches out to Calvin to catch up... and the former homecoming king is sucked into Bob's crazy world of espionage.
Setting up a story right is crucial, and while Central Intelligence takes its time to create a base to build its story on, it takes a bit too long, plodding along a bit until Calvin and Bob have an altercation in a bar with a bunch of bullies. There's a fine line between a movie with not enough going on and way too much, but Central Intelligence falls somewhere in the middle. In the end, it seems like it's the story and script that are the problem, and not the players. Dwayne Johnson is pretty reliable as a comedic/action star, but he's not exactly a powerhouse when it comes to acting. However, I was surprised at how reserved Kevin Hart was in this film. Admittedly, I've only ever seen him play smaller parts in films before (and couldn't stand him in Grudge Match), but his performance here is far more well-rounded. He doesn't spaz out for just the sake of spazzing out, so when he does spaz, it feels warranted. His character is a pretty decent guy who just happens to be disenchanted by how his life has turned out. And it's interesting to see a spin on "the most popular guy in school" with him as a nice guy and not an arrogant jerk. Meanwhile, Bob's appearance in high school had him rather obese, and he was the target of some pretty awful pranks. In the film's opening scene, we see him dancing and singing in the shower, until some school bullies grab him and toss him into the gym butt-naked (which we see) in front of the whole school (why he's showering at school during a school gathering makes no sense, though... but the film does take plenty of comedic liberties). Calvin gives the humiliated Bob his varsity jacket to cover up with as he leaves in shame. From the start, we already have a pretty good impression of Calvin "The Golden Jet" Joyner.
The story offers a couple thematic elements that will surprise some viewers. The biggest one is an anti-bullying message that centers around Bob's character who received some really horrible treatment in high school, and mostly just for being overweight. While he's clearly fit and in shape as an adult, the wounds of being made fun of as a teenager are something he's carried through life (and hasn't completely dealt with). In a scene where he and Calvin are forced to turn to one of those high school bullies as adults for help (played by Jason Bateman), the guy pretends to have found the Lord and apologizes to Bob for the way he treated him. He then changes his tune and laughs at Bob, telling him he was just kidding about the apology. In another scene in a bar, when Calvin is being harassed by a couple guys there, Bob declares that he hates bullies, before beating them up (mostly in defense). The movie's finale gets a little too heavyhanded with the message, however -- think of any given Christian film where the message comes on too strong and this is a lot like that -- and the story ends on kind of an odd note that feels misplaced for a film of this kind.
As you can imagine with a cast like this one, it's a buddy action comedy with some pretty edgy humor mixed in with some big action sequences. However, the plot involving a crazy is-he-good-or-is-he-bad? rogue CIA agent roping a civilian into the mess as the agency tracks them is a little too familiar. In fact, 2010's Knight and Day had the same basic plot, with Tom Cruise playing the kind of role Johnson plays here. But instead of it being a guy buddy pair up, it was Cameron Diaz being pulled into the fray. That film was a ridiculously fun outing that stirred a lot of comedy in with the action and the end result was delightful (in fact, just writing about it makes me want to go rewatch it when I'm done here). There are plenty of plot differences between these two films, but I couldn't help but be frequently reminded of similarities between these two films. Viola Davis even played the CIA director, who's replaced here by Amy Ryan here, and in both films, these female agents try to convince the innocent bystanding civilian of the dangers of being involved with the story's fun-loving and seemingly crazy rogue agent. The combination of the story feeling too familiar and finding the film that this one is similar to far more enjoyable, is a strike against this movie.
The content is of the PG-13 variety, but it rides the line between 13 and R, and the fact the movie is released in an "Unrated" version on disc helps explain why. The Blu-Ray disc offers viewers the choice to watch the PG-13 theatrical version or the Unrated version, but it's a pretty clear distinction between the two content-wise. While some "extended" versions barely add much in the way of objectionable content, the "Unrated" version of Central Intelligence is definitely an R-rated alternative. I skipped watching the "Unrated" film and watched the PG-13 version, but just a glance at the "Unrated" deleted scenes reveals that it's added uses of the "F" word and some cruder humor that was added in. The PG-13 version has frequent profanity (over 40 uses of the "S" word and one "F" word from Hart's character), and plenty of sexual references in the film's comedy. The action scenes are pretty common for a PG-13 action film, but a few scenes cross over to being gross or bloody. One scene shows a person who's been tortured having a mangled finger, but they bend it back into place off screen and then we see it's normal (played for laughs). A series of flashbacks replay a bomb going off in a small space and blood splashing onto the window. Lastly, a man's throat is bloody after Bob hits him and then we see he has part of the person's throat in his hand afterwards (gross, but also played for laughs).
Fans of the core cast of Central Intelligence will be the most interested in this film, while fans of the genre will also want to check it out. It's not the best action comedy or buddy film you can see, and its similarities to other films make it feel like a sophomoric effort. And while the frequent language and crude remarks also hinder the enjoyment of the film (for me at least), it's not a terrible movie as it does have its moments. As it is, Central Intelligence is barely memorable, and serves as a bit of a prelude to Johnson and Hart's reteaming on next year's Jumanji reboot, but moviegoers could certainly do a lot worse.- John DiBiase (reviewed: 9/25/16)
Alternate Scenes Rated (18:07) - There are 10 alternate/extended deleted scenes in the "rated" version. The first one is a brief moment where we see Maggie leaving the house on the morning Bob sleeps over. The next scene shows Harris and Calvin sitting in the agency's van, riffing on the button they give him (which is actually pretty funny). The following shows Harris rushing into the therapist's office to find him tied up. The fourth sequence is an alternate version of Calvin trying to distract the airplane owner with a transplant organ in a cooler (this version is cruder and elaborates on the idea of Calvin saying there's a "d*ck" in the cooler and the desk clerk talks about "Korean porn" and encourages Calvin to check it out). The next deleted scene is a continuation that has a little more dialog in the cockpit between Calvin and Bob during their flight. The sixth scene is a barely different alternate cut of the standoff in the parking garage. Next is an extended scene involving dialog between Bob and Calvin on the bridge before a third person shows up. The last three scenes take place at the class reunion that have more of Bob's speech, Bob dancing, and then Bob finding Calvin and Maggie making out under the bleachers. (Overall: 11 uses of the "S" word, 10 uses of "d*ck," 1 "t*ts," 2 "a" words, 1 "g*dd*mn," 5 "Oh my G-d," 1 "sucked," 2 "d*mn")
Line-O-Rama Rated (2:27) is a montage of alternate lines and adlibbing from Hart and Johnson, primarily. (Some of the alternate dialog is a little crude)
Dance Off (2:26) - The overweight version of young Bob was actually played by a real guy who is also a great dancer. This video shows Dwayne Johnson and the actor having a dance-off at the class reunion.
Gag Reel Rated (5:38) - This gag reel consists mostly of bleeped-out swearing and line goofs. There are also some great outtakes from the scene where Hart and Johnson were slapping each other in the face. (Most of the language is bleeped, except for 3 "a" words, 1 "d*mn" and 1 "Oh my G-d")
Couch Time Lapse (0:41) - In the scene where Calvin finds Bob asleep on his couch with a big mess all around him and then meets Harris at the front door, the scene was actually filmed as one continuous shot and done in real-time. This time lapse shows how, just as Calvin leaves the room, the crew converted the messy room into a cleaned up room just before Harris and Calvin come back to the room. (1 "h*ll")
Unrated Content - All of the "Rated" bonus features have alternate "Unrated" versions. The main difference for these features is that the "Alternate Scenes Unrated" is an hour and 10 minutes long and features more profanity and crude dialog, as well as some additional scenes.- John DiBiase, (reviewed: 9/24/16)
Disclaimer: All reviews are based solely on the opinions of the reviewer. Most reviews are rated on how the reviewer enjoyed the film overall, not exclusively on content. However, if the content really affects the reviewer's opinion and experience of the film, it will definitely affect the reviewer's overall rating.
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