REVIEW: ‘Red Notice’ Boasts A Blockbuster Budget, But No Chemistry Between Its Leads

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Red notice - But Why Tho

Red Notice is a Netflix Original Film written and directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber. FBI Agent John Hartley (Dwayne Johnson) helps Interpol apprehend notorious art thief Nolan Booth (Ryan Reynolds), who has been on a global hunt for three golden eggs that were gifted to Queen Cleopatra. However, Hartley is framed by the notorious art thief known as “The Bishop” (Gal Gadot), who plants evidence suggesting he stole one of the eggs. Incarcerated in the same Russian prison, Hartley and Booth join forces to find the two remaining eggs and apprehend the Bishop with Interpol Inspector Das (Ritu Arya) hot on their tail.

Netflix has touted Red Notice as one of its biggest film productions ever, with the streamer apparently sinking $200 million dollars into the budget after acquiring distribution rights from Universal Pictures. And it shows, especially where the action sequences are concerned. Thurber, who previously helmed the Johnson-led films Skyscraper and Central Intelligence, makes sure the film moves at a pace that feels faster than its two-hour runtime; it leaps from Italy to Russia to Spain and frames a setpiece around each location. A key example occurs early in the film when Hartley chases Booth through a museum in France; Reynolds uses his lithe physique and the environment to stay one step ahead of Johnson, who’s essentially a bull in a very expensive china shop as he crashes through windows and even gets pinned in a security door. Other standouts feature a fight in a crime lord’s trophy room and a narrow escape from a bullfighting ring.

Less impressive is Thurber’s script, which like Amazon Prime’s The Tomorrow War often feels like a collection of elements from other, better films. An innocent man on the run and trying to clear his name? Shades of The Fugitive. A team-up between two men who are polar opposites, but develop an unlikely friendship? Lethal WeaponMen in Black…the list goes on. In perhaps the biggest example, when Booth and Hartley enter an underground bunker full of treasure in the film’s third act, Booth starts whistling the Indiana Jones theme. This was obviously intended to draw a laugh from the audience; I found myself wanting to watch Raiders of the Lost Ark instead.

And the biggest issue is the three leads; not only is there nary a drop of chemistry between the trio, but their performances are more or less recycled takes on various performances across their career. Reynolds is the worst; his snarky motormouth performance as Booth wears thin after you’ve seen it in Deadpool (and The Hitman’s Bodyguard, and Detective Pikachu, ad infinitum). It’s extremely disappointing because Free Guy shows that Reynolds is capable of more, and I wish he’d push himself more when it comes to new roles. I also suspect that the world may have overestimated Gadot’s range outside the Wonder Woman films; yes she is extremely attractive and yes her accent is hypnotic but her performance comes off flatter than room temperature soda. Johnson’s performance is a mixed bag; while he’s played multiple action heroes before, his take as Booth has a slightly more cerebral edge as he’s able to read people based on their actions. But while Johnson plays the straight man to Reynolds with ease, the attempts at sexual tension with Gadot are laughable. Case in point; a dance sequence between Gadot and Johnson, which should be simmering with passion, has all the energy of a poorly performed puppet show.

It’s a shame because this film sounded far better on paper. Three of the biggest stars in Hollywood, a massive budget, and a streaming service willing to embrace creative freedom should be heaven for a filmmaker. But that essential spark of chemistry is lacking and that’s a huge blow because seeing actors work off of each other is half the draw of a film. Netflix seems to oscillate between films like The Harder They Fall, which leaned all the way into its Western roots and had a cast that bounced off of each other perfectly, and this; there’s no in-between.

Red Notice may be the biggest movie Netflix has ever backed, but its blockbuster budgets and intense action sequences can’t cover the lack of chemistry between its stars or the influence of other films on its screenplay. I hope Netflix keeps in mind that big budgets can only take you so far; characters and the actors who play them are the lifeblood of a film.

Red Notice is currently playing in select theaters and will be available to stream on Netflix on November 12, 2021.


Red Notice
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TL;DR

Red Notice may be the biggest movie Netflix has ever backed, but its blockbuster budgets and intense action sequences can’t cover the lack of chemistry between its stars or the influence of other films on its screenplay. I hope Netflix keeps in mind that big budgets can only take you so far; characters and the actors who play them are the lifeblood of a film.