'Red Notice' review: Dwayne Johnson and Ryan Reynolds carry lousy action comedy
Courtesy of Netflix
Another hopeful Netflix franchise starter, “Red Notice” brings the star power of Dwayne Johnson, Ryan Reynolds, and Gal Gadot under one roof in a forgettable but tame art-heist buddy comedy. Reportedly shelling out $200 million smackers for the script penned by director Rawson Marshall Thurber, Netflix spared no expense attracting this lineup and it will undoubtedly become the streamers biggest hit. Except its recycled elements feel piled to the sky in another espionage thriller where Dwyane Johnson gets to be the muscular hero (and throws shade at “Fast and Furious” co-star Vin Diesel) while Ryan Reynolds improvises every other line thinking he’s the funniest thing on the planet. “Red Notice” is diverting enough to justify a presence in the Netflix queue where the marquee alone will attract major global appeal, but the sustainability of sequels remains a question mark, especially when Thurber’s script already skates on thin ice.
Borrowing several nods to “Indiana Jones” and “National Treasure,” “Red Notice'' tries to be the Netflix answer to the “Bourne,” James Bond, and “Mission: Impossible” series’ with lackluster results. A globetrotting, international shakedown that, despite a few solid quips from Reynolds and Johnson, comes up empty handed. An opening prologue sets the stage for “Red Notice,” which is the interpol designation for a most wanted criminal, and the eventual conquest for Cleopatra’s three eggs. Long rumored to be myths before arriving on the scene in 1907, one egg resides in Rome; the other with a private collector; and the third remains a mystery.
Enter Nolan Booth (Reynolds), the world’s foremost art thief behind “The Bishop,” who’s plans of stealing one egg hits a snag when FBI behavioral analyst John Hartley (Johnson) intervenes. Say what you will about Thurber’s lifeless script, the opening throwdown involving these two moves and won’t get dinged for lack of energy (I’m a big fan of literally jumping into the action). Later, after Booth is thrown into custody, some convoluted plot holes surface that results in Hartley having to team-up with Booth for the sole reason of getting Reynolds and Johnson in the room together. Naturally, this blossoms into one of those bromances where an occasional joke lands because Reynolds doesn’t know when to quit. You throw 20 zingers at the wall, sooner or later a couple will elicit a chuckle or two.
In any case, Gadot’s “The Bishop,” who’s real name is kept secret, propositions Harltey and Booth for a wild goose chase into the den of international art smugglers (the main baddie, played by Chris Diamantopoulos, of all things is called Sotto Voce) with the intent of tracking down the elusive third egg. (Take a shot each time someone in “Red Notice” says egg). To Gadot, Johnson and Reynolds’ credit they appear to be having a blast parkouring through Thurber's shenanigans, elevating “Red Notice” beyond the mindless kill joy it could have been. The trio have decent chemistry, which is more than you can say for Johnson and Emily Blunt’s Disney clunker “Jungle Cruise.
Originally conceived to film on location before Covid forced relocation onto an Atlanta soundstage, the set pieces in “Red Notice,” as a result, look noticeably flimsy; specifically a section involving CGI bulls in Spain that look hilariously artificial, not even the deep pockets at Netflix could fix it. Other action sequences, namely the opening chase, garners mild amusement. Nobody was expecting “Red Notice” to achieve anything other than passive noise on a Friday night while doom scrolling on your cell-phone. As for big-budget Netflix originals, it's better than “Bright” and “6 Underground,” though considering how awful those entries were, I’m not sure “Red Notice” should take that as a complement.
RED NOTICE opens in theaters Friday, November 5th and debuts on Netflix, Friday November 12th.