Rawson Marshall Thurber had a big filmmaking debut with Dodgeball, the sleeper hit that pitted Vince Vaughn and Ben Stiller against each other in a high-stakes battle to win a national dodgeball tournament. If that synopsis doesn’t give it away, the comedy is rightfully best known for its laughs, but in the climactic final rounds of the tournament, Thurber also demonstrated a knack for infusing the goofiness with well-orchestrated action moments. With his latest film, Central Intelligence, Thurber gets to put that skill to good use with an action comedy that delivers both parts of that equation in equal measure, mixing set-pieces and gags with ease.
The film stars Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart as a mismatched pair of pair of former high school classmates who reunite years later only to find their lives have taken completely unexpected paths. Johnson plays Bob Stone, a deadly CIA operative who’s just a little bit nutty from years of brutal high school bullying. However, there was one person that was always kind to him, the former king of the campus, Calvin (Hart), aka The Golden Jet, who grew up to become a straight-laced, underachieved accountant. While Calvin is disappointed with his life, Bob still admires and adores him, and when he’s framed for treason he didn’t commit on the eve of their 20-year high school reunion, Bob believes the Jet is just the man to get him out of his predicament…whether Calvin agrees or not.
With Central Intelligence now in theaters, I recently sat down with Thurber to chat about the film. We talked about directing a spy comedy that doesn’t lean into genre conventions or wink at the audience, why he wanted to subvert the standard buddy comedy riff, and leaving room for improv when he’s got comedic talent like Hart and Johson on the floor.
Rawson Marshall Thurber
- Talks about making a spy comedy without winking at genre conventions.
- Talks about inverting the buddy comedy dynamic.
- How much does directing a film like Central Intelligence become about harnessing the power of Kevin Hart and Dwayne Johnson?
Here’s the official synopsis:
The story follows a one-time bullied geek, Bob, who grew up to be a lethal CIA agent (Dwayne Johnson), coming home for his high school reunion. Claiming to be on a top-secret case, he enlists the help of former “big man on campus,” Calvin (Kevin 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.