‘Image smashing performance’ by The Rock in Central Intelligence

Kevin Hart and Dwayne Johnson (aka The Rock) team up to breathe life into another formulaic Hollywood action comedy, Central Intelligence.

Calvin (Hart) is pulled into the world of international espionage when his old high school acquaintance Bob (Johnson) arrives unexpectedly.

The movie’s opening sequence - a vibrant, giddy flashback - introduces us to their high school selves.

Calvin is a talented athlete. Bob is Johnson in a fat suit, a loner who’s cruel humiliation is witnessed by the whole school.

There’s much novelty in seeing The Rock play an adult nerd who still feels like the bullied, overweight teenager he used to be. It’s a sweet role for the action star who plays friendless Bob like an excited puppy, eager to please and loving life. His carefree, lively persona is at odds with Bob’s perilous rogue agent status: it’s the movie’s sole comedic goldmine. Meanwhile, Calvin personifies a glaring comment on the pressures of living up to your potential.

Directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber (We’re The Millers), Central Intelligence has enough laughs to get by but fails to compete with its own credit rolling outtakes where the cast’s natural chemistry is unshackled from the nonsense plot. The material is hardly worthy of its comedic talent which includes cameos from Jason Bateman and Melissa McCarthy. Hart and Johnson squeeze the best out of the script while their charm and likability compensate for the occasionally shouty rapport.

Arriving so soon after Shane Black’s superb buddy comedy The Nice Guys, Central Intelligence inevitably suffers by comparison but its worth seeing for The Rock’s hilarious image-smashing performance.

3/5