Movie Review: Red Notice

Some films allow their movie title to become a self-fulfilling prophecy and unfortunately, Red Notice is one of them. According to Interpol a Red Notice is a request to law enforcement worldwide to locate and provisionally arrest a person pending extradition, surrender, or similar legal action. After watching this check-the-box “content”, it seems criminal that this lazy, uninspired, mainstream-to-oblivion and straight-to-video thing should be allowed to masquerade as a film anywhere.

If you’re old enough to have played the original ‘Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?’ video game, you may be familiar with the concept of trying to apprehend an elusive globetrotter who manages to stay one step ahead of you with repeat air tickets to Kigali and Montreal. This is where the slick and candied Red Notice lands, loosely based on the idea of a CIA agent trying to track down and catch one of the world’s most notorious art thieves.

Red Notice begins with a mini documentary, replete with Attenorough-esque commentary, to give us the detail on several precious and legendary “Faberge” style eggs once belonging to Cleopatra. Just as you’re starting to wonder if you’re watching the right movie, along comes the chalkboard definition of the title so that the story’s groundwork is complete. What follows is the cinematic equivalent of bubblegum, a “movie” that starts off with some synthetic sugary flavour, gives you a few fun bubbles only to become something to mindlessly swish about your mouth until it becomes so void of taste you have no option but to double down or spit it out.

The Mummy connection is strong here, tapping into the same comic adventure tone, which found Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz trying to apprehend the undead Imhotep played with fury by Arnold Vosloo. Led by the actual ‘Scorpion King’ himself, it’s difficult not to at least feel The Mummy franchise’s influence, which is perpetuated by the priceless golden eggs as they weave in and out of sight. This treasure-based manhunt also has a National Treasure vibration as culture and history intertwine with charm and hot pursuit to create high adventure. While it’s flexing the stellar trio of heavy-hitters in Dwayne Johnson, Ryan Reynolds and Gal Gadot, the art thievery and gamesmanship aligns Red Notice with the mischief and misdirection of the sultry cat-and-mouse thriller, The Thomas Crown Affair. A much better option for movie night.

Red Notice uses these films as footholds rather than inspiration, wringing the nostalgia and fun of these superior action adventure thrillers in order to set the platform for its big stars to vegetate. Dwayne Johnson is our generation’s Arnold Schwarzenegger, who doesn’t let his muscular physique define him based on his recent claim that he’d like to play James Bond. “The Rock” would be much more suited to playing a Bond villain but has become so synonymous with star-spangled heroics that it’s difficult to imagine him even attempting a British accent let alone fitting into the front seat of an Aston Martin. In Red Notice, Johnson is doing his bit as the charming, smooth and tough special operative, a Hardy to Ryan Reynolds as Laurel.

Ironically, Ryan Reynolds has got a worse strike rate than Nicolas Cage when it comes to fresh films according to Rotten Tomatoes. His fun patter and seemingly limitless Canadian charm make him a surefire hit in comedy and a sort-of secret weapon in action. Doing his usual cheeky, snarky and lovable brand of comedy, bald jokes fly as readily as fat and short jokes did in The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. Red Notice plays to his strengths, much like Rush Hour did for Chris Tucker, but as much as he dances around Johnson the jury’s still out on whether you can consider Reynolds a true action star.

red notice film 2021

“Never call me “Mr D.” or “Johnson” in polite company again.”

Gal Gadot is a real-life Amazonian, the perfect casting call for Wonder Woman, a Hollywood star who could be a great Carmen Sandiego. Yet, it’s becoming clear that she’s not as self-combustible as you’d think, struggling to fill her character’s shoes as The Bishop. The screenplay is thin, her character is more wispy than enigmatic and she doesn’t have the same screentime as her co-stars but Gadot seems overshadowed and out of her depth. Perhaps Skyscaper and We’re the Millers writer-director, Rawson Marshall Thurber, is to blame here… unable to siphon her talent as an actor possibly restrained as a director.

While $200 million productions like Red Notice can run into trouble for any number of reasons, one of the film’s biggest failings is that it seems to have been shot almost exclusively in a green room. As tricky as it is to have Johnson, Reynolds and Gadot in one place at the same time, it’s as if they only had a weekend to shoot this subpar action adventure comedy. Instead of wasting time with pesky international locations, the bulk of the backdrops are predominantly enhanced by visual effects from a Bali mansion and East Bloc prisons to lush jungle. Faking up a rampage, this false reality undermines the danger factor as star power and charm become the frayed all-access pass.

Relying heavily on its trio of big name stars, who are forced to chew on manufactured dialogue, pithy one-liners and cliched action comedy along with us… Red Notice is as mindless as it gets. Essentially playing a version of themselves without much conviction, who can blame them for not being in the moment when having to imagine almost everything around them. The speaking parts are few as confirmed by the short cast credits and constantly being thrust in front of camera to simply “lights, camera and CHARM” with rote material, it’s a complete reversal when contrasted with the burgeoning CGI-is-king effect of Marvel superhero spectaculars.

Usually scripts come first but in the case of Red Notice, it’s as if the film was adapted from a call sheet. Having big name stars and a huge subscriber base seems to have been the biggest motivation for Red Notice to even exist. Mimicking an egg, the focus of this film is its high profile line-up, mainstream genre appeal, build-up campaign with content there to serve as filler. While some audiences may relish the opportunity to allow this poor excuse for a movie to wash over them in a year they’d rather forget, it represents a new instantly forgettable low in film as entertainment fodder. A professional endeavor where everyone phoned it in, this dull, dumb, synthetic and uninspired affair is a blight on Hollywood and the art of filmmaking.

The bottom line: Trash