Movie Review: Red Notice

On paper, it looks like a obvious winner. Three major Hollywood actors, a MARVEL-sized budget of US$200 million, and a script written by a director who has a great track record helming successful comedy and action films, particularly ones starring one of the aforementioned actors. RED NOTICE, which dropped on Netflix last week, is already the streaming service’s most watched film in its opening weekend to date. How that translates into revenue for the company is anyone’s guess though. Regardless, the bigger question is, “Is it worth your time?”

In RED NOTICE, Nolan Booth (Ryan Reynolds, FREE GUY; HITMAN’S WIFE’S BODYGUARD; the DEADPOOL films; LIFE) is arguably the world’s greatest art thief and this time he’s got his eye on three elaborately decorated eggs that were once owned by Cleopatra. (Think of a Fabergé egg but laid by an emu.) It seems that an Egyptian billionaire has offered the art thieves of the world $300 million if they can bring him all three eggs in time for his daughter’s wedding. One is on display at an art museum in Rome and FBI special agent John Hartley (Dwayne Johnson, JUNGLE CRUISE; BAYWATCH; HERCULES) gets a tip that Booth will be there on a certain day to steal it so he asks Interpol inspector Das (Ritu Arya, LAST XMAS) to lock down the museum. Sure enough, Booth is there and Hartley nabs him with the egg in hand. The egg, however, doesn’t stay safe for long because The Bishop (Gal Gadot, the WONDER WOMAN films; JUSTICE LEAGUE), the world’s other greatest art thief, is there too and she steals it from under Hartley’s nose. Now Booth, The Bishop and Hartley are all engaged in a cat-and-mouse chase for the other two eggs that takes them around the globe.

RED NOTICE is pretty much THE THOMAS CROWN AFFAIR crossed with NATIONAL TREASURE and RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK but it’s neither as witty nor as much fun as the other three films. I doubt there was script or, if there was, it was thrown out early on in the production. Instead, I think writer-director Rawson Marshall Thurber (SKYSCRAPER; CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE; WE’RE THE MILLERS; DODGEBALL: A TRUE UNDERDOG STORY) gave the three actors an outline and told them to ad lib it. So we have Reynolds doing his usual wise-aleck shtick, Johnson doing his usual straight-man-who-scowls-a-lot shtick and Gadot who does her usual high-kicking-femme-fatale shtick. Fifteen minutes into the film and you’ll be ready to punch your screen.

The three actors are clearly enjoying themselves here, and why not? They each got a cool $20 million for what was essentially a sleepwalk. (Johnson stands to earn even more as one of the film’s producers.) Audiences who have seen them do their shticks far too often (and I’m specifically referring to you, Ryan Reynolds) will be left wondering if this film would have been more interesting/exciting/fun with one or two different actors. The Bishop’s character, for instance, had Salma Hayek’s name written all over it. Even though the actress is 55 and perhaps, as one of my colleagues says, her high kicking days are over, I think she would have been an improvement over Gadot. I like the Israeli actress as much as the next Jew does but she was way out of her league here… and I don’t mean the Justice League. And bless Dwayne Johnson, who keeps trying to position himself in Hollywood as a romantic lead. It’s just not working.

Lazy acting aside, a better script or at least one that was followed could have helped too. The plot is entirely predictable and quite unbelievable as well. It’s not like whoever ended up with a stolen Van Gogh or Vermeer displays the artwork for everyone including the paparazzi to see. Worse though, like almost every Hollywood film these days, RED NOTICE ends with a sequel clearly in its sights. But even that’s not as bad as one scene that firmly has its tongue in its cheek parodying RAIDERS. As Booth and Hartley search through a hidden Nazi bunker looking for the third egg, Booth whistles that film’s iconic theme song. Yeah, yeah, we got the movie connection. You don’t have to hit us over the head with it.

RED NOTICE is not a very good film but it is mindlessly entertaining. If that’s all you’re looking for then, yes, it’s worth your time.

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