Synopsis – An Interpol agent tracks the world’s most wanted art thief.
My Take – Having outbid every other studio to release this $200 million feature, it seemed like Netflix finally had a solid blockbuster franchise of its own, something which they have been desperately trying to get on their hands for some time with mixed reception, with the occasional successes in the form of Extraction (2020) and The Old Guard (2020), coming in.
Led by very recognizable Hollywood stars Ryan Reynolds, Dwayne Johnson, and Gal Gadot, who were all paid upwards of $20 million each, this Rawson Marshall Thurber (Skyscraper, Central Intelligence) directorial seemed like a winner all the way, after all it was designed like a good old-fashioned, globetrotting, swashbuckling action adventure comedy that is part buddy-cop film and part heist flick, something on the lines of the National Treasure or Indiana Jones films.
However, what’s most surprising is how much little effort it takes to stand out, screaming bland actioner for most of its 118-minute runtime, as writer-director Thurber showcases nothing we haven’t seen millions of times before. Hoping to work simply on its sheer star power, the action-adventure comedy is racy, even diverting in parts, but all things factored in, it never rises above its surface glitz and gloss. Resulting in as a very run-of-the-mill film with little personality of its own.
While audiences will definitely turn up to see its major stars interact with each other, probably the only factor Netflix and the producers (including Dwayne Johnson) are counting on, one can only wish that the whole experience just wasn’t so dull, tepid and breathtakingly boring.
The story follows John Hartley (Dwayne Johnson), an FBI profiler who specializes in art crime, and Nolan Booth (Ryan Reynolds), one of the top art thieves in the world, who have been playing a cat and mouse game for a while now. But while Hartley manages to finally nab Booth attempting to steal one of the three bejeweled eggs Roman General Marcus Antonius gifted to Cleopatra two thousand years ago, Hartley also finds himself framed and arrested by Interpol agent Urvashi Das (Ritu Arya) for the theft of the same egg.
Incarcerated in a remote Russian prison in the same cell together, upon confirmation that Bishop (Gal Gadot), the most-wanted art thief in the world, is behind both their conditions, the two decide to work together and get a hold of the other two pieces, one of whose location only Booth knows, before Bishop can, to clear Hartley’s name and earn Booth the title of the world’s greatest thief.
Like I mentioned above, the film breaks no new ground, but what is most surprising is that it does not even seem particularly interested in doing so. Primarily, the setup is an excuse for Johnson and Reynolds to do their best attempt at a buddy-comedy duo and to place them in wacky situations. The film is overly-layered to the point where things just feel silly, with the humor especially being widely hit and miss, with even the surprise twists visible from at least a mile away.
Now this is not to say that the film doesn’t have its moments, because it does as director Thurber sets up some extravagant action pieces including a perilous escape from a snow covered prison involving a bazooka shootout on a rope bridge, a close quarters fight in an art exhibit, a high speed chase in a tunnel and even a bull fight.
All the action pin balls from London, to Spain, to Argentina, with quips and costume changes galore. A film this massive, it should come as no surprise, ends with a setup for a sequel. And here it is less like an enticing promise and more like a threat.
Performance wise, all the three leads seem to playing less characters and more a version of themselves. Dwayne Johnson seems to be channeling a less grumpy version of Hobbs (from the Fast and Furious films). Deprived of his trademark smile and eyebrow-raise, and Johnson seems stuck in a eye roll and straight face theme to counter Reynolds‘s constant jabs at his expense. Ryan Reynolds is doing his usual Deadpool shtick just in a family-friendly PG-13 manner.
Gal Gadot looks jaw-dropping gorgeous as usual and seems to be channeling just a naughtier version of Diana Prince aka Wonder Woman. In smaller roles, Chris Diamantopoulos is stuck with a terrible accent while Ritu Arya is alright in a minor thankless character. On the whole, ‘Red Notice’ is a tepid action comedy caper which promises loads, but delivers little.
Directed – Rawson Marshall Thurber
Rated – PG13
Run Time – 118 minutes