Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Ryan Reynolds & Gal Gadot
Directed by: Rawson Marshall Thurber
Distributed by: Netflix
Release Date: November 2021
Running Time: 118 mins
Synopsis: When an Interpol-issued Red Notice the highest level warrant to hunt and capture the world’s most wanted goes out, the FBI’s top profiler John Hartley is on the case. His global pursuit finds him smack dab in the middle of a daring heist where he’s forced to partner with the world’s greatest art thief Nolan Booth in order to catch the world’s most wanted art thief, “The Bishop”. The high-flying adventure that ensues takes the trio around the world, across the dance floor, trapped in a secluded prison, into the jungle and, worst of all for them, constantly into each other’s company.
Ryan Reynolds and Dwayne Johnson are two of the most prolific actors in Hollywood at the moment, so it was inevitable that the pair would eventually headline a movie together. Both actors have a ‘stock type’ that they have spent the past couple of decades establishing; Reynolds has cornered the market on snarky, irreverent anti-heroes whilst Johnson pivoted his wrestling career into family-friendly action movies, becoming a PG-13 version of Stallone and Schwarzenegger. Red Notice encourages both actors to play to their strengths, with Reynolds effectively replicating his Deadpool character with the identical joke delivery, inappropriate touching and “love me” vibe. While Reynolds has played different degrees of the same character in subsequent films, this is the first time where it felt like a direct repeat of the Deadpool persona. Could this be because he wrote a lot of the quips himself?
Red Notice represents the third time that director Rawson Marshall Thurber and Dwayne Johnson have worked together on a movie, following on from Central Intelligence and Skyscraper (also reviewed here). The two clearly have a strong working relationship and there is a confidence to Johnson’s performance that comes from that close partnership.
As a Netflix original movie, there is the expectation that it will have a lower budget or that the action will pale in comparison to a traditional cinema release, but that isn’t the case at all – Red Notice feels epic in nature, particularly due to its international globe-trotting storyline. This isn’t surprising as the film cost $200 million to make, making it the most expensive film in Netflix’s history.
The opening half of the movie adopts the typical ‘cat-and-mouse’ heist format between cop and criminal, and I was struck by how similar the premise was to the Lupin 3rd series (one of my all-time favourite anime series!) with Reynolds’ Nolan Booth bearing a striking similarity to the gentlemen thief and the intrepid Inspector Das occupying the Inspector Zenigata role. I wasn’t expecting that comparison whilst watching the film, and while the plot does veer off in different directions, Red Notice might be the closest we’ll ever get to a Hollywood live-action adaptation of Lupin 3rd. Although, if there is ever one, Reynolds definitely has my vote to play Lupin!
The film focuses on the forced friendship between Reynolds and Johnson as circumstances bind them together, and both actors have good chemistry. Johnson is well versed to playing the straight-man after multiple films with Kevin Hart, and Reynolds slips into the familiar male idolatry he typically reserves for Hugh Jackman. With the attention on the two male leads, Gal Gadot gets little opportunity to shine as the third member of the cast – aside from an odd moment where she sings “Downtown” whilst electrocuting Johnson’s unmentionables – still, it beats her singing “Imagine”! She is surprisingly understated in the femme fatale role with the plot presenting her as an expert manipulator, rather than a man-eater. While the film purposefully puts her at a distance due to her role as puppet-master, I’d have liked to have seen more from the character once she become an active participant.
Rawson Marshall Thurber, who also wrote the script in addition to directing, crafts some noteworthy action set-pieces that stand out from the crowd; I particularly enjoyed the helicopter prison escape and the impromptu bull-fighting sequence. The humour, despite feeling derivative of Deadpool, hit the mark most of the time and Reynolds’ motor-mouth banter with Johnson generated some actual laugh-out-loud moments (“Why are you wearing a hair net? You’re bald!”). Originality can be over-rated, especially when the end result is as effortlessly entertaining as Red Notice is.
Transitioning from heist movie to an international treasure hunt throughout its two-hour runtime, Red Notice may borrow elements from a number of different sources, but it remains a really fun piece of escapism with gifted actors playing very familiar roles. It is the cinematic equivalent of “comfort food” with Reynolds and Johnson making use of their immeasurable charm to take audiences on a journey. As you’d expect in a film about art thieves, there are a number of twists-and-turns throughout the story and while some are predictable, others genuinely caught me off-guard. Thurber’s script is always moving and never gets dull, thrilling audiences with fast-paced action, scene changes or back-stabbing betrayals.
The film ends with the promise of more adventures from the trio – and rumours of back-to-back sequels being filmed – it seems that Red Notice might become another blockbuster franchise for Reynolds, Johnson and Gadot to add to their résumés.
Score – ★★★★
Red Notice is available to stream on Netflix.