REVIEW: Red Notice (2021)

Ryan Reynolds, Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, and Gal Gadot in Red Notice — Photo: Netflix.

Directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber — Screenplay by Rawson Marshall Thurber.

Rawson Marshall Thurber’s Red Notice is an action-adventure buddy comedy film about the search for three priceless eggs once owned by Cleopatra. In the film, FBI Special Agent John Hartley (played by Dwayne Johnson) is forced to team-up with Nolan Booth (played by Ryan Reynolds), an internationally renowned art thief, in a race against time to find all three eggs before Booth’s main competitor, The Bishop (played by Gal Gadot), finds them and sells them to the highest bidder.

I can definitely see what Netflix is trying to do here. On paper, it should work. Sign multiple world-famous actors to leading roles in an action-comedy that can enliven Netflix’s growing original blockbuster-budgeted catalog, though it is far too early to tell if this film will be a success (and given the fact that Netflix rarely ifs ever release all of the relevant numbers, we may never now).

For a couple of years, the streaming service has been searching for a marketable franchise with famous leads. I’ve previously remarked that they’ve been looking for their own Fast & Furious, and I feel like I need to bring that remark out again here considering all three of this film’s leads have appeared in said franchise or its spin-off Hobbs and Shaw.

Netflix wants to appeal to a broad worldwide audience and it certainly feels that way. As I’ve mentioned, its stars have all become either household names or famous faces. But to appeal to as broad an audience as possible, they have also opted to give the outrageous $200 million production budget to a project that is quite generic, eventually quite convoluted, and undeniably derivative. Halfway through the film, I wrote in my notes that it felt like a studio-engineered action-adventure comedy with action every other scene or something like that.

It does a lot and it also does too much. There is a random cameo from a musician towards the end of the film that just feels like a desperate attempt to get more eyes on the film, and, although the film is, admittedly, designed to be a globe-trotting film, the film starts and stops too often to teleport its characters from destination to destination. It’s breezy and fun at first, but then it starts to become a little bit exhausting.

I will also say that even though the film is led by three marketable stars-of-the-screen, they don’t all work as well as you would want them to. Most notably, there is a lack of chemistry in some pivotal scenes towards the end of the scenes, and this lack made once sudden revelation relatively baffling to me. I think, though, that the number one factor that will decide whether or not you enjoy this film is how much you enjoy the outward personas of the three leads. I have no doubt that they all enjoyed themselves, but they haven’t stretched themselves to play these characters. They feel like slight variations on their off-screen outward personas. So if you really enjoy Gadot or Johnson or Reynolds, then you may have a good time with this movie in spite of its flaws or downsides.

And that brings me to this fact: I enjoyed Red Notice much more than I thought I would. It is the kind of action-adventure film that I just really enjoy. To quote Roger Ebert (from his review of The Mummy): “I cannot argue for the script, the direction, the acting […], but I can say that I was not bored and sometimes I was unreasonably pleased.” I feel similarly about this film, even though I absolutely do not think it is as good as The Mummy. Obviously, that doesn’t make it a good movie, and I’m not arguing that Red Notice is one. It is, however, a perfectly chuckle-worthy action-adventure buddy film with likable stars playing themselves and their likable off-screen personas. I really enjoyed the film when it was doing its own version of Catch Me If You Can (and I wanted much more of that), and I really enjoyed it when it was giving me National Treasure or Indiana Jones-vibes. It is never as good as any of those films, but I found these scenes relatively pleasing, as Ebert might say. I think Reynolds’ performance is the one that works best, even though they all clearly had a lot of fun, and the chemistry issues are more noticeable with the other stars.

It is by no means special and it has plenty of flaws, of which I feel like I have mentioned quite a few, but it is still a somewhat decent Netflix original film for its subscribers. It’s just ridiculously overpriced budget-wise. It definitely could have been a theatrical release in the vein of The Hitman’s Bodyguard or Hobbs and Shaw, but it didn’t need that big of a budget, and they could’ve scaled down the film to save money, I presume. There are probably even plot holes here and there, but it is a chuckle-worthy action-adventure film that is suitable viewing while you’re lying on the couch on your day-off. Therefore it is a pretty perfect film for a streaming service. So, if you can keep your expectations low, and if you enjoy these stars, then you should be alright with this Netflix guilty pleasure.

5.9 out of 10

– Review Written by Jeffrey Rex Bertelsen.

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