At a reported price tag of about 200 million dollars, Red Notice is the most expensive movie Netflix has ever produced and unfortunately doesn’t look like it. While a significant chunk of that probably went to securing the three leads, it looks and feels more like a mid-budget action/comedy flick. But there are decent action beats as the trio of actors bounce off each other amusingly. Even though the script thinks it’s clever there are a few too many double and triple crosses that eventually feel creaky. Red Notice is presented as a Triple A action blockbuster but never quite achieves it. It’s a fun flick, if slight and, ultimately, a bit bland.
Special Agent John Hartley (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) and Inspector Das (Ritu Arya) are on the hunt for an elusive art thief, Nolan Booth (Ryan Reynolds). Three priceless Eggs of Cleopatra have gone missing, and they track down Booth and the first egg, sending him to a Russian prison. Shockingly, Hartley is framed for taking one of the eggs and ends up in the same prison as Booth, so both team up to break out. The egg was taken by a competing art thief, The Bishop (Gal Gadot), and she wants to use the two guys to fetch the remaining eggs. One is in the possession of the nasty criminal, Voce (Chris Diamantopoulos) and the last egg’s location is only known to Booth. So they heist, double cross and run across the globe while keeping ahead of Inspector Das.
The eggs of Cleopatra are elaborate McGuffins and given an intricate backstory which is pointless. There’s a fun gag when someone is finally presented with the three eggs and then immediately gets way more excited at a pop singer’s surprise appearance. A neat opening scene has Hartley revealing a fake egg in a crowded museum, leading to a high energy chase with Johnston and Reynolds smashing through walls. Booth knows the location of the last one because of his father’s secret, which is another needlessly elaborate scheme on top of other schemes. Twists in heist movies are cool and required but too many come off as contrived. There’s also an overabundance of heist planning scenes. One moment has Booth walking them through the plan and, amusingly, from his point of view he’s portraying Hartley as a goofy sidekick in awe of Booth’s heist skills.
Reynolds is doing the same motor-mouthed shtick he has been doing for a while now. The love/hate relationship Booth has with the large Hartley feels very close to a redux of the buddy comedy duo of Cable and Deadpool. Still, Reynolds is probably the most entertaining person here and most of his random quips are great. One of the best asides is when Hartley and Booth are facing down a rampaging bull and Booth is convinced the bull follows the rules of seeing by movement and Hartley repeatedly tells him he’s thinking about the T-Rex from Jurassic Park. Another sometimes superhero Gadot is much livelier in this movie than she usually is in Wonder Woman. Bishop is more upbeat, often laughing and enjoying running scams on the dopey schmucks she’s corralled into doing her bidding. She also gets in a three way brawl with Booth and Hartley where she demonstrates considerable ass-kicking skill. A future superhero, Johnston who is going to play Black Adam, does the same action hero stuff he’s been doing constantly. Here he’s mostly just stuck as the straight-man to Reynolds’ constant riffing. Although some of the best laughs are the exasperated reactions he has to Booth. At the end of the film Johnston gets to do something different from the generic heroic lead he’s been the whole time. As the film ends on a required sequel bait tease, maybe he’ll be more interesting in a follow-up.
Arya as the single-minded Inspector has a few choice moments of snark like when she first throws Hartley in the slammer. The rest of the film she’s basically just showing up too late. She arrives in a final action scene to cause a long underground car chase in a cave that looks rather phony. Diamantopoulos as the other baddie is the target of a convoluted heist and he gets in a requisite torturing the heroes for information scene. His entire character seems to be based around the fact that he takes off his shirt and strangles people, which is nasty but not exactly original. Even the two guys comment that taking off his shirt seems pointless for strangling folks.
Written and directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber, the movie is funny but not constantly so. Which is a bit disheartening since Thurber wrote and directed Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story that is consistently hilarious. Some of the action here has scope and there are a few long take action bits that are impressive. There’s one action movie trope here that is gleefully subverted when Hartley jumps into a car to chase Booth, cranks some Beastie Boys, then immediately gets sideswiped. Red Notice has a few moments that make it entertaining but it doesn’t become the spectacle that it wants to be.
Director: Rawson Marshall Thurber
Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Ryan Reynolds, Gal Gadot, Ritu Arya and Chris Diamantopoulos