Intelligent Design

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Few surprises await any perceptive or experienced movie viewer in Central Intelligence. The story, which often dances around rather than engaging with the cheapo CIA thriller tropes, finds itself locked in a Kevin Hart film. His formula (even his character) is unbelievably redundant, the sheepish, shouting type who ends up in uncomfortable scenarios.

Add in Dwayne Johnson, who isn’t in formula or unbelievably redundant, and suddenly Central Intelligence comes alive. He’s gloriously campy. Violent yes, but also socially awkward and emotionally fragile, stemming from a dire high school bullying scenario. Typically Johnson’s lighter fare struggles to catch on – Journey 2 and the whats-it The Tooth Fairy – but Central Intelligence squeaks by with a unique balance of raunch, irreverence, and capable comedy scripting.

Cutting through a tale of treason and rogue satellites, out pops a studio buddy flick. This entire project lays on the shoulders of the headlining leads, with a handful of cameo bit parts to cover potential dead zones. Like pop music, it’s all comfortable and familiar, somewhat sweet, a little empty yet fully tapped into the chemistry of Johnson/Hart.

Like pop music, it’s all comfortable and familiar, somewhat sweet, a little empty…

Before delving into wanton anarchy, gunfights, and brawls, Central Intelligence smartly winds up. Johnson and Hart form an interesting, slightly uncomfortable method of interaction. Johnson says yes, Hart says no, and the formula draws on that repetitive back-and-forth. A modest concept, elevated by the screen presence and natural interactions of the lead pair.

In the wider scope of summer 2016’s movie output, it’s arguably the lone action film willing to pause itself and build a narrative platform for its characters. Too often the rush into explosions leaves stars reaching for exposition or underexposed plot material (Independence Day Resurgence, that’s you). Not with Central Intelligence. Brawls and shootouts happen between the racial humor and clever synergy building, a reverse on the modern formula.

Paraded around in trailers with the image of “Fat Robbie,” an obese Dwayne Johnson bouncing around nude in the shower to En Vogue, it’s but a slice of Central Intelligence. This Warner/Universal co-production doesn’t rise above the label of blockbuster junk food, but holds firm to a great pace and marvelous opening act to overstep the boundaries of the buddy genre.

Central Intelligence Blu-ray screen shot 15


Part of the movie’s appeal comes from this gorgeous, even dazzling video presentation. Digitally lensed without signs of noise or aliasing, Central Intelligence can boast about this image quality. Clarity produces stunning results, especially with the consistency of facial definition. Resolution extracts extreme nuance, captured in both long, medium, and close-up shots.

While not immediately apparent, black levels come into play for the finale, set in a dark Boston park. Deep, rich blacks fill the backgrounds and create commanding shadows. This comes in tandem with brilliant, bright contrast during the rest of the movie.

Settling into its form, cinematography adds no tricks. Images stay sharp and clear. Enhanced color saturates the primaries, giving them an instantly appealing intensity. Encoding comes from Warner and any worries in that statement are quickly relieved. No bothersome compression or noise comes into play.


Working only in a 5.1 space – an oddity anymore for big studio summer movies – the DTS-HD track still excels with plenty of energy. A vibrant high school pep rally starts things off, the mix dying down before gunfire perks it back up. Shots come from all directions, arguably too much so considering the number of people involved. Fronts and surrounds fill even if the front soundstage only visually features Johnson.

Imaging keeps this nicely overdone style throughout, showing off during a motorcycle attack as the vehicle sweeps through each channel. Bass hounds get a fix from boomy gunshots and some other heavier pieces of action (an underground car wreck carries plenty of sudden weight) fill in gaps. It’s an audio track as fun as the movie.


A rarity, Central Intelligence features both rated and unrated extras to coincide with the different versions of the movie. However, they’re the same features. The unrated set doesn’t bleep out words while adding a few bonus clips. For families, it’s nice, although many of these steer vulgar anyway.

First up comes a thick set of alternate scenes, a touch over 18-minutes. An enjoyable dance off on-set between Johnson and the young Robbie dancer is classic. Flushed with laughs is the gag reel, well over six minutes in unrated form. The line-o-rama is likewise enjoyable. The final bonus only lasts 41-seconds, yet details how the crew pulled off the one shot couch gag. For something meatier, the commentary from director Rawson Marshall Thurber and editor Mike Sale comes on the rated cut.

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Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process. Patreon supporters were able to access these screens early, view them as .pngs, and gain access to exclusives.

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