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Sunday, April 15, 2018

The Mirror 3: Central Intelligence

Starring Dwayne Johnson (Robbie Weirdicht/ Bob Stone) and Kevin Hart (Calvin Joyner), the 2016 action comedy Central Intelligence was, despite its potential, a bit of a confusing attempt at film making.

Image result for central intelligence film imagesOn the positive side, many of the lines were quite funny, as was seeing Johnson play such a geeky, gormless character, albeit with mixed success - his bizarre CGI/fat suit thing notwithstanding. However, his schizophrenic switches between dork and crack CIA agent were jarring and unbelievable-but pretty funny. The action scenes were quite creative too. It was an entertaining film, but the real problem was the attempt to deal with the theme of bullying.

Bullying is a serious issue which touches just about everyone, either directly or indirectly. I was bullied at school for being so thin, and I also participated in the bullying of a couple of migrant kids, one in particular, who was the only Asian child at our primary school, was treated quite cruelly.

The message from Central Intelligence was that the way to deal with bullying is to become a loner, transform your body from fat to muscular, and learn how to fight. Then beat up people who try to bully you or your friends. The final piece of the puzzle is to attend your 20th high school reunion and do something completely outrageous to make everyone love you, when 90% treated you like dirt during high school, and made your life hell.

With a little more focus, the story could have had more drama and much more impact. In my view, Central Intelligence trivialized bullying. There was one scene in particular which showed the unfilled potential of the bullying theme. Weirdicht has to seek help from Trevor Olson, the man who, in high school, inflicted him with the cruelest and most significant humiliation at the end of year rally. Olson is now a very successful banker or something. After Weirdicht and Joyner make their request of him, Olson pretends to be remorseful about what he did to Weirdicht in school. He even suggests he has been born again and wants to apologize, which he does with apparent sincerity. During the whole conversation, Weirdicht is silent: paralyzed as he faces his tormentor from 20 years ago. He demonstrates that he has not gotten over what happened to him. 

When Olson, ends his faked apology by confessing he was just kidding, had no regret at all, and thought Weirdicht was still an idiot, the latter simply leaves without saying a word. Devastated by the powerlessness and shame as though twenty years have not passed, and he is still an obese eighteen year old being tortured by his heartless peers.

Weirdicht became a loner, joined the CIA, worked out for 6 hours a day and spent his life killing people and blowing things up. When he and Joyner revisit their high school, Weirdicht has a flashback of the humiliating incident, but then tells Joyner that he squeezed all those memories into a little ball and pushed them down deep inside him. Joyner grimaces and says, "That doesn't sound healthy man."

It's not. Nor is it helpful to make half baked attempts at dealing with serious issues in films or in real life.

Let me conclude by saying the irony of the title is not lost on me either.

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