THE STORY – In the world of international crime, an Interpol agent attempts to hunt down and capture the world’s most wanted art thief.
THE CAST – Dwayne Johnson, Ryan Reynolds & Gal Gadot
THE TEAM – Rawson Marshall Thurber (Director/Writer)
THE RUNNING TIME – 115 Minutes
By Nicole Ackman
Netflix’s latest action-comedy, “Red Notice,” has Dwayne Johnson teaming up with Ryan Reynolds to attempt a complicated heist. The film is written and directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber, who previously worked with Johnson on “Central Intelligence” (2016) and “Skyscraper” (2016), which may or may not be an indication of what you’re in store for this time around. While the film’s playful tone and charisma of its stars try to carry this particular heist movie, the story is unengaging, and at times cringey in the execution of its comedy and action set pieces.
An Interpol red notice has been issued for the art thief that is trying to steal one of Cleopatra’s famed bejeweled eggs. However, it turns out that rival art thieves, Nolan Booth (Reynolds) and the Bishop (Gal Gadot), are both after the treasure to sell all three eggs to an Egyptian billionaire looking for a wedding present for his daughter. A misunderstanding leads the FBI’s top profiler, John Hartley (Johnson), to team up with Booth despite his desire to clear his name for the heist which he’s being famed for by Inspector Urvashi Das (Ritu Arya). The chase leads them to places across the world, from Rome to Bali to Sardinia.
Unfortunately, neither Reynolds nor Johnson are operating at their best in “Red Notice.” Each seems to be doing a watered-down version of the type of character they typically play, but each has a better showcase for their talents in other 2021 films: “Free Guy” for Reynolds and “Jungle Cruise” for Johnson. Much of their comedic banter is based around the same joke of whether or not they’re friends (hint: John Hartley says they aren’t), but the pair doesn’t play off of each other well. Perhaps it is because their primary function as the lead in any other movie, typically the sarcastic comedic character, is too similar, so they can never meld well as a pair as it feels like they’re constantly trying to upstage each other.
Gadot is at her best when she can coast on the vibes of a character and doesn’t have to do any serious acting. Thus, she is actually decent in this film as the glamorous, calm, and collected thieving mastermind. At one point in the movie, Gadot even sings a bit of the song “Downtown.” It’s too bad for her that the film is coming out so close to the release “Last Night in Soho,” which involves a much better use of that song. Either way, Gadot manages to stand above her two macho co-stars, but just barely.
Where “Red Notice” really messes up is when it abandons its fun tone and tries to build its characters more seriously. Each of the film’s main characters blames who they are today on their fathers. It’s a trope that sometimes can work with one character, but applying it to all three characters at once feels like overkill. At another moment, John tells Norman, “It’s as though you want to get caught, just to escape so you can prove yourself all over again.” It feels like the “daddy issues” trope was added in lieu of providing an actual backstory for many of these characters. With the information we’re given, it’s hard to connect to or care about any of them when it’s so surface level, uninspiring and lazy.
The action sequences are reliable, though unimpressive. There is some variety in the action sequences presented, from a car chase to hand-to-hand combat. Still, no individual setpiece ever stands out from the countless many Johnson, Reynolds, and Gadot have given us over the last few years. The action does arrive pretty fast, for within the first ten minutes of the film, John and Nolan are fighting on scaffolding in a museum, and it never lets up from there. The movie’s playful tone ensures that none of these action scenes ever become too tense as some funny moments are sprinkled throughout them, but such a decision also robs them of any real stakes.
With such star power, this should’ve been a slam dunk for everyone involved, but unfortunately, “Red Notice” falls completely flat. A last-minute dramatic twist at the end fails to ignite any excitement, and many of the film’s jokes never land as well as the blockbuster stars are probably hoping. While it’s slickly produced with a high budget, the film is brought down by the lackluster storytelling, which relies too heavily on the natural charisma of Johnson and Reynolds. While they work well separately, together, they’re a poor pairing with zero chemistry. In what is undoubtedly the most eye-rolling moment of all, the ending of “Red Notice” attempts to set up a franchise, though after sitting through two hours of something this bland, it’s abundantly clear this trio does not warrant one.
THE FINAL SCORE
THE GOOD – The playful tone gives us a heist movie that doesn’t take itself too seriously.
THE BAD – Dwayne Johnson and Ryan Reynolds don’t work as a pair. The story is unengaging and, at times, even cringey.
THE OSCARS – None