Director: Rawson Marshall Thurber
Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Ryan Reynolds, Gal Gadot
Run Time: 118 mins
Red Notice is an action-adventure comedy that teams Dwayne Johnson, Ryan Reynolds and Gal Gadot together. FBI Agent John Hartley (Dwayne Johnson) is assigned to investigate the theft of one of Cleopatra’s bejewelled, priceless eggs in a museum in Rome, of which in total there are three. The location of two are known but not the third. Hartley crosses paths with international art thief, Nolan Booth (Ryan Reynolds) who is in the process of stealing the egg as Hartley is in the room in the museum and a chase ensues. After a series of events, both Hartley and Booth are forced to team together to locate the other eggs in order to catch an even more skilled art thief, Sarah Black (Gal Gadot).
On paper, the film’s cast and plot are a promising proposition. Johnson reteams with director Rawson Marshall Thurber who directed him in Central Intelligence and Skyscraper which were fun enough if rather derivative. Red Notice was originally a Universal feature but was acquired by Netflix and represents their largest budget feature to date at $200 million.
Red Notice is a light enough romp but it fails to utilise its bankable three stars and is bland, lazy and rote in its construction. It feels like a mix of Indiana Jones, Jumanji and Jungle Cruise with a hint of The Hitman’s Bodyguard thrown in – essentially any film with a MacGuffin device with a comedic edge. There is even an unashamed and cheap reference to Indiana Jones as Reynolds whistles John Williams’ theme in a scene as the filmmakers clearly feel that the audience aren’t intelligent enough to understand the inference. The script isn’t brilliant – the humour mostly doesn’t land and the character quips feel forced and aggressive. The action sequences are laden with unconvincing CGI and there are no stakes – there are no after-effects if the third egg isn’t located and the world will continue as it was.
The performances are all serviceable from these profitable actors and Thurber asks them to do the things they do best in the constraint of a 12A rating. Johnson is a likeable presence and makes the most of the preposterous lines his character is given. Reynolds is on sarky autopilot and plagiarises his Deadpool performance but without the humour. Gadot isn’t great either and it is difficult to buy her as a dishonest character with a stilted performance.
The narrative is convoluted for the sake of it and characters take actions that require you to suspend belief and then some. The film will then revisit events audiences are likely to question and offer a preposterous explanation of what actually happened, which one has to further suspend belief for. There are a couple of twists here and there and a large one at the end which don’t make the investment in the film all for nothing.
The 12A rating really hurts Red Notice. The humour is painfully generic as the boundaries cannot be pushed and the film would have really benefited from some more risqué humour that Reynolds is renowned for, stronger language and more convincing and hard-hitting violence in the action sequences. This is simply a case of Netflix and / or Thurber wanting to appeal to the highest common denominator and in doing so, they appease no-one.
Red Notice is watchable in the moment but is ultimately painfully cookie-cutter and represents a poor investment for its big budget with its CGI-heavy action. It is difficult to comprehend how the film’s budget is to the extent that it is as it certainly doesn’t portray that way on the screen. The film unashamedly sets up a sequel in its closing moments (and also contains a toe-curling Ed Sheeran cameo). When (not if) this happens, serious lessons will need to be learnt if this is to be a quality series to rival other action-adventure properties. Red Notice, as it is now, is a film that I’m sure I will forget about almost immediately.