Thursday, 30 June 2016

Central Intelligence (3½ Stars)

Dwayne Johnson, better known as The Rock, is one of the biggest action stars in Hollywood today. After a short but successful wrestling career he made the step into acting in 2001 to play the Scorpion King in "The Mummy Returns". After that he played the title role in "The Scorpion King" in 2003. Although this film was a big box office success, I found it dull, and The Rock's acting seemed wooden to me. (I can't help calling him The Rock). That's one of the main reasons I criticised him in my review of "The Mummy Returns" three years ago. At the moment I don't know how to judge him. He put on a poor performance in "Hercules", but his acting in "Fast & Furious 7" was impressive, and in last year's blockbuster "San Andreas" he was nothing less than amazing.

Now he's turned his hand to comedy. He plays Bob Stone, a boy who was bullied in school because he was fat. The only boy who stood up for him was Calvin Joyner, the school's most successful student, and the one voted most likely to succeed, But votes in school don't mean much. 20 years later Calvin has a boring job as an accountant. Bob has made something of his life. He has worked out every day, shedding his fat and building up muscle. He's joined the CIA, but he's been given the blame for the death of his partner and his bosses think he's gone rogue. Bob has nowhere to go to, so he turns to Calvin, who he hasn't seen since graduation day.

This is where it gets very uncomfortable. Bob acts like a stalker. In fact, he is a stalker, because he knows all about Calvin's life. As a CIA agent he has access to secret knowledge. Calvin gets caught up in the battle between Bob and his former CIA bosses.

It's an outstanding comedy, despite the inherent creepiness of The Rock's character. He's a gentle giant, a tough fighter who is vulnerable inside. Kevin Hart, who plays Calvin Joyner, is a brilliantly funny comedian.

In 2003 The Rock announced his retirement from wrestling to dedicate himself to acting. He's returned to the ring occasionally for guest appearances, but he's no longer a full time wrestler. In 2003 he also added a quite spectacular tattoo to his body. Even as someone who doesn't like tattoos I have to appreciate it as a work of art. At the time the tattoo was criticised as a hindrance to his acting career. I can understand that. It's more difficult for actors with tattoos to find work. Why did he do it?

It's part of his culture. He's mixed race, having a black Canadian father and a Samoan mother, but he feels most attached to his Samoan heritage. It's a custom for Samoans to have a tattoo that tells their life story. The tattoo was custom designed by the tattoo artist, based on the description The Rock gave of himself.

This photo shows the tattoo's template. The Rock is proud of it as part of his heritage. It's who he is, so questions of difficulty acting didn't come into his head. And if the tattoo really is unwelcome in a film there are make-up women who know how to hide it.

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