Central Intelligence (USA, 2016)

Directed by: Rawson Marshall Thurber. I’m not sure why I actually saw this, especially after I spent a whole post griping about how I just don’t “get” modern comedies with Sisters. Sometimes a person gravitates towards something they can deliberately put on in the background while doing other stuff, right? But also, at some level I must really enjoy this shoot-em-up dumb guy action comedy garbage, right? What tipped the scales was the unknown element here—the fact that I’d heard a lot about Kevin Hart, that he’s the new Eddie Murphy or whatever, and I hadn’t seen him in action yet. As far as that goes, Hart was pretty good and everything, but he didn’t make me crack up a ton. Honestly, not very much about this movie made me crack up a ton, it was pretty subdued chuckles the whole time. I was pleasantly surprised that the underlying core attitude of this movie was not 100% normative and slavishly devoted to utterly denigrating anyone who falls a tiny bit outside of mainstream standards of beauty and behaviour. In actuality, it was only about 65% of that shit, thanks mostly to the fact that the main relationship is built upon an act of altruism between the characters in high school, an act of kindness very rarely depicted in this kind of dumb-frat-bro comedy, and even then, rarely endorsed as unflinchingly as this film (and for a crucial plot point too). So that was pretty impressive. I found it interesting that again, it’s high school, even though this movie is about secret agent spy movies and their conventions, it still comes down to two protagonists measuring themselves against who they were in high school, usually along physical lines. So that’s weird that these things keep coming up, and almost always in these kind of mainstream dumb-frat-bro comedies. What else is there to say about this movie? It was good to see Aaron Paul again after Breaking Bad, and it was great to see Amy Ryan as a kick-ass cop after The Wire. One interesting thing I’ll say for this movie, though, is this constant undercurrent of paranoia that you only really get in Philip K. Dick movies or Liam Neeson  movies, where you really don’t know who to trust, and the whole ground of truth is shifting everywhere. In the film, this is just at the level of Kevin Hart not knowing if he can trust Duane Johnson or not, but for us in the audience, this is actually pretty important, because we don’t even really know what kind of moving we’re watching—it could be a standard movie where the cops have it all wrong and the dynamic lead is just too good for them (spoiler, it’s totally that kind of movie, and it’s kind of boring), but until that reveal, you’re never quite sure that Duane Johnson won’t turn out to be a lunatic killer and end up savagely murdering Kevin Hart, or attempting to, and then the standard Hollywood arc is that Hart overcomes his ho-hum life and becomes an action hero and beats the big guy. This is very unlikely, and it didn’t happen, but my point is that I was never quite sure if this movie was going to completely turn sideways or not, and that’s a pretty cool element in a dumb-frat-bro comedy.

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2 responses to “Central Intelligence (USA, 2016)

  1. Pingback: The In-Laws (USA, 1979) | Offhand Reviews·

  2. Pingback: To Be or Not to Be (USA, 1942) | Offhand Reviews·

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