Red Notice, 2021.
Written and Directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber
Starring Dwayne Johnson, Ryan Reynolds, Gal Gadot, Ritu Arya, Chris Diamantopoulos, and Ivan Mbakop.
An Interpol agent tracks the world’s most wanted art thief.
Red Notice begins with a history lesson explaining the doomed love between Cleopatra and Marc Anthony, sprinkling in some fabricated mythology regarding three ceremonial eggs. They were gifted to Cleopatra before ending up lost and chased by treasure hunters throughout time. However, none of this really matters, considering writer and director Rawson Marshall Thurber is less interested in telling a twisty story about that legend. A case could be made that he also doesn’t have to since Netflix opened up their own money vault to bring aboard Dwayne Johnson, Gal Gadot, and Ryan Reynolds on the same project. As a result, Rawson Marshall Thurber is banking on their popularity, hopeful chemistry, and excessive amounts of bombastic and cartoonish action set pieces to carry Red Notice beyond its failings as a brain-teasing, globetrotting quest for international treasure.
These stars are also somewhat cast against type, with Dwayne Johnson’s John Hartley operating as an art thief profiler, although when it comes down to it, he is a natural brawler even if it’s not necessarily his skill set here. Ryan Reynolds also brings his juvenile jokes to the role of Interpol’s second most wanted art world criminal, Nolan Booth. His greatest rival happens to be Gal Gadot’s gorgeous but deadly enigma known as The Bishop. Naturally, all three of these major players are looking to collect Cleopatra’s eggs (two of which have been found and located but must be stolen, with the third unknown), as an Egyptian Prince will be handing over a fortune to whoever can bring them to his daughter’s upcoming expense wedding.
With that in mind, there is a whopping amount of doublecrossing in Red Notice, including a scheme that sees John untrusted and betrayed by his Interpol agent coworker Das (Ritu Arya) and incarcerated alongside Nolan in a Russian prison. The first problem here is that the usual crude quips from Ryan Reynolds are irritating as an antihero (more so than usual, anyway), with him and Dwayne Johnson struggling to find a cohesive spark comedically. It also doesn’t help that the script cannot decide whether Nolan is an incompetent dimwit or a master at his craft. The fact that the film has been nothing but lazy clichés so far is also disappointing considering the promise ruffling around in Egyptian myths presents.
Admittedly, Red Notice takes a turn for the better (at least, in an entertaining sense) once John and Nolan find themselves as united as possible, breaking into an arms dealer’s private masked party at his luxurious mansion, tasked with several smaller goals in the process of reaching the secure Cleopatra egg. There are even flashes of sly writing taking advantage of the shadier sides of these characters. Gal Gadot is also finally given something worthwhile to do, and like most ensembles, she rises to the top as the most magnetic and exciting part. Even the action sequences start to become thrilling, utilizing silhouette lighting while throwing down over possession of the egg. Simply put, it’s a satisfying heist that corrects some of the preceding flaws (although there are still lame jokes about awkward erections while battling The Bishop).
It’s no surprise that there is more deception and traveling around the world, but for the most part, the comedy has started to land, the characters are riffing off one another more organically, and there’s a sense of urgency in the race for the eggs. Unfortunately, the plot also goes off the rails in the last 20 minutes, pulling the rug out from underneath viewers with a twist that not only reeks of trying too hard to outsmart the audience but is also predictable anyway, even as the script tries its damnedest to cover it up nonsensically. It only cements that Rawson Marshall Thurber is confused on what to do with both his mythology and exposition-heavy characters who, unsurprisingly, turn out to be similar in more ways than one.
Of course, this would be forgivable if Red Notice was an explosive knockout in terms of its set pieces, but there isn’t that much creatively dazzling on display here. Reportedly, this is the most expensive Netflix movie ever made, which certainly shows in some not-so-flattering ways. Gal Gadot is the only one that works up any allure here (yes, even Dwayne Johnson is relatively dull), so for future sequels, hopefully, Rawson Marshall Thurber skews in her direction. Hey, it worked for some DC movies, so you might as well try with Red Notice, which, as it stands, is the very definition of mediocre Netflix blockbusters prioritizing A-Hollywood talent and explosions above all else. There’s nothing glaringly terrible here (outside the ridiculous burst of climactic twists), just decidedly formulaic proceedings without a voice.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com