Red Notice (2021)

“It doesn’t matter what you do, only matters what they think you’ve done.”

Movies with a jungle setting that Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson has appeared in: The Rundown, Jumangi: Welcome to the Jungle, Jumanji: The Next Level, Jungle Cruise and finally – Red Notice. I’m sure I’m missing a few more and I don’t know about you, but I’m beginning to see a pattern here. Not a good pattern either, depending on the viewer – I happen to like The Rundown and Jungle Cruise. With Red Notice, the next Netflix film of the week, the 3 co-stars are enough to pique an interest and give 2 hours of your time to it but mostly it’s empty calories that are instantly regrettable once finished but delicious enough to consume in the first place. That’s not to say there isn’t an enjoyment to it, the visuals are pretty enough to give it a stylish palette and the chemistry between the 3 co-stars is beyond magnetic.

Star power isn’t enough to cause a significant distraction to a played-out plot. Ultimately derivative, Red Notice is an amalgamation of many different films in the genre shifting tones from cops and robbers to an international heist thriller. It’s been done before, especially in films featuring Johnson and Gadot. A new film is fine for the genre, but the thing is Red Notice doesn’t add anything fresh to get excited about. If I went into this film not knowing anything about it nor seeing any marketing Id assume it was a Fast & Furious spinoff since all three co-stars have appeared in the franchise.

Special agent John Hartley (Dwayne Johnson), a criminal profiler for the FBI is on the tail of art thief Nolan Booth (Ryan Reynolds) as he attempts to steal the three bejeweled eggs of Cleopatra gifted to her by Marcus Antonius two thousand years ago. Also on the eggs trail is a second master thief simply known as The Bishop (Gal Gadot). 

Red Notice’s best attribute is with its star’s chemistry. It’s almost impossible to picture anyone having terrible on-screen chemistry with Dwayne Johnson or Ryan Reynolds and it shows in every scene the two have together – which is 98% of the films 118-minute runtime. Most of the film is the two of the lead actors with Gadot playing the third wheel never grasping the spotlight from the two ball hogs. When Gadot has her moments within the derivative story, she still manages to hold her own and bring her classic Wonder Woman charm to the screen. If it wasn’t for her counterparts, her performance would be as good as it is. 

I tried to see how many films I could identify that Red Notice makes up. Indiana Jones, Fast & Furious, and Point Break are to name a few. Writer/director Rawson Marshall Thurber who has Dodgeball, We’re the Millers, Central Intelligence and Skyscraper to his credit has an uphill battle to climb since only two in his filmography landed a “fresh” rating. The good news is the audience score is much higher. Who doesn’t love We’re the Millers or Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story? What makes Red Notice worth a watch will be how easily ingestible it is especially on repeat viewing. 

The writing may not be the strongest here – as the actors never fully become their characters making it hard to believe they are acting or not. I don’t believe its humanly possible for Ryan Reynolds to not sound like Deadpool with every role he takes. Johnson is starting to get typecast – playing the same Special Agent FBI, CIA brute on the hunt for a thief while not showing enough talent to propel him to the next level. Maybe Black Adam will prove us wrong, I hope he does. 

For a Netflix film, Red Notice has been marketed since the beginning of the year to be the biggest release the streaming service would see. And it is, it’s a globe-trotting adventure with twist after twist in which Thurber thinks he is one step ahead of the viewer but ultimately the plot is easily predictable. Nolan Booth finds an old bulletproof car – guess what, they drive it. 

Besides the magnetic chemistry and energetic performances (the three stars look to be having a blast together and it translates to the screen) the action is cranked up to 11 with set pieces that dazzle in a tiresome genre. Sequences feel like they’ve been done before but they’re gorgeous, explosive and pulse-pounding. It’s one of the two redeeming qualities of the film.

Landing itself on Netflix doesn’t necessarily mean it’s an automatic win for the film. 3 quarters of the films that release to the streaming service aren’t good and will be forgettable within a week’s time. Unfortunately for Red Notice that’s its destiny. With an all-star cast of the three biggest actors in the industry, they can’t save a poorly written, plain, and derivative film that adds nothing new to the genre. Reynolds is almost too distracting with his performance letting a bit Buried (easily his best performance) out in the slower moments of the film. Those moments of exposition are few and far between and when they do show up, a joke isn’t too far behind it only killing the mood. For what it is, Red Notice is an enjoyable popcorn flick to enjoy on a night home but don’t expect much in terms of though-provoking material. Johnson, Reynolds and Gadot prove why they are the most in-demand – I can’t imagine how much their paycheck s were for this film. 

Written By: Rawson Marshall Thurber

Directed By: Rawson Marshall Thurber

Music By: Steve Jablonsky

Cinematography: Markus Forderer

Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Ryan Reynolds, Gal Gadot

Where to Watch: Netflix

Release Date: Nov 5, 2021

Running Time: 1 Hour 55 Minutes

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 35%

My Score: 2 out of 5.

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