Netflix has been bragging for quite some time about the massive price tag of its latest blockbuster film. Red Notice, which stars Dwayne Johnson, Ryan Reynolds and Gal Gadot, cost $200 million after marketing. But what does all that money actually buy Netflix? Well, in a nutshell, a really dumb movie that will either be a big fun dumb time, or a big dumb waste of time, depending on how you check your expectations and what you’re watching this movie for.
Red Notice is, according to the film, a noun that Interpol uses to flag the most wanted criminals in the world. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson stars as Agent Hartley, an FBI profiler with a specialty for criminals in the art heist scene. He’s been hot on the heels of Ryan Reynolds’ Nolan Booth, the most wanted and talented art thief in the world. After a snafu in Rome, the unlikely duo finds themselves forced to work together in an effort to stop the Bishop (Gal Gadot), another top-tier art thief who is out to steal and recover all three of Cleopatra’s lost Golden eggs, the Macguffin of the film (Reynolds’ character literally says to look for a box that says MacGuffin on it at one point during their search). What follows is a lot of action hijinx, quips and set-pieces. If this sounds like Uncharted meets Fast and Furious, you’d be forgiven for the misunderstanding. Not only does it feel like those franchises (Uncharted is a popular video game series technically), but it also riffs on everything from a Few Rotten Scoundrels to Raiders of the Lost Ark.
I didn’t want to rag on the Red Notice, which is directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber (DodgeBall), too much because that would’ve been too easy and too boring. There is some fun to be had with this movie, in that sort of turn-off your brain kind of way and the cinematography for the action scenes were definitely better than expected. The score from Steve Jablonsky is also pretty fun and suits the scene well, particularly those flute melodies that have become synonymous with the heist genre (see Ocean’s 11 and Snatch).
But there are also a lot issues with Red Notice. Overlit scenes with mediocre CGI aside (why is that such a thing these days?), for me, there are three chief problems with this movie, and they may not be problems for some viewers but for me, they dragged the movie down. One was the number of conveniences in this movie is at the point of self-parody. In an early chase scene, Johnson’s Hartley is hanging on the side of a building and there just so happens to be a ladder a few paces to his left, allowing him to continue his foot chase. There’s a lot of these moments where everything feels deliberately placed for the benefit of propelling the plot and it’s so obvious that it feels lazy. The number of times I thought “that was easy” made me think I was in a Screen Rant pitch meeting.
Another is how redundant the film and the characters feel. Hartley is nearly indistinguishable from Hobbs from 2019’s Hobbs and Shaw as the banter, quips and antagonizing between him and Booth riffs heavy on that movie. Heck, there’s even a torture by means of electricity scene in Red Notice, just like in Hobbs. Johnson feels like he’s going through the motions, playing in his typecast as a hulking tough guy with swagger. And if you think that Johnson was typecast, wait till you see Reynolds, who is basically playing the last five years of Ryan Reynolds films at once. He has a smartass reply to everything and after a while, it wears thin very quickly as most of his jokes simply don’t land. Gal Gadot as the Bishop is the only one who seems to be having fun as the master thief, but she doesn’t have much to do other than “be smarter while wearing a dress”.
While this movie is very cartoony and video-gamey, the villains lean heavily into that cartoon pastiche, particularly Chris Diamantopoulos as Sotto Voce, an arms dealer who hosts a lavish masquerade party in Valencia and is the custodian of the second egg. His acting and character are caricatures to the point of comedic, but I’m laughing at him, not with him. These elements ultimately derail the movie from being really enjoyable, as opposed to the dumb with some fun that it ends up being. While the film starts off fairly decent, I found the movie became more and more uninspired the longer it went as the conveniences and tropes began to pile up.
This is a movie that was seemingly made without much imagination. It riffs heavily on tropes, what will make audiences happy and simply trends. The humour doesn’t land 99% of the time and the film just feels uninspired as it reaches the finale. But this is apparently the biggest opening day for a Netflix movie and the audience score on the Tomato meter sits at strong 93%, so you can bet Netflix and Dwayne Johnson’s Seven Bucks company will see that this film gets a sequel. Despite the disposable fun and enjoying the first 20 odd minutes, I don’t feel the need to rewatch Red Notice anytime soon and if this was a theatrical release only, I wouldn’t recommend. But on Netflix on your own time, couldn’t do much harm.
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