With so much double-crossing, random teaming up, scheming and backstabbing around every corner, it’s a shock Gal Gadot doesn’t spontaneously break into a performance of Zara Zara Touch Me at any point in Red Notice. Because that’s essentially what it feels like: a Hollywoodiya version of any movie from the Race franchise, but made on a budget bigger than what entire Bollywood could possibly earn this year.
Rawson Marshall Thurber’s Red Notice is as silly as they come. Hoping to run simply on the star power of Gal, Ryan Reynolds and Dwayne Johnson, it’s a two-hour test of how much and how far back one can roll their eyes.
Dwayne plays FBI agent John Hartley, who channels more Fast and Furious’ grumpy Hobbs than he does Moana’s charming Maui. He is on a mission to nab two art thieves. Ryan is thief #1, Nolan Booth, and he plays it as his usual, unmasked Deadpool self. Frankly, I was already over this wise-cracking persona last month after Free Guy and Nolan Booth did not help anything either.
Thief #2 is Gal Gadot’s very pretentiously named Bishop. Even as she delivers roundhouse kicks and administers shock therapy on buff men, Gal never manages to look even remotely menacing or intimidating. Red Notice was never supposed to be a test of any of these people’s acting abilities but it is sure eye-opening to see just who all we have decided to crown the biggest movie stars in the world.
Anyway, this triumvirate’s task in Red Notice is to collect set props for Gal’s upcoming Cleopatra movie. Some are doing it to clear their tainted name while others have more monetary gains on their minds, clearly unlike Netflix, which has shelled so much money on this film, while never bothering to hire better writers for a fraction of that budget.
The plot is as thin as it gets. New, lazy twists are conjured after every 20 minutes just when Ryan’s nonsense couldn’t hold up the film any longer. Tragic backstories about absentee dads are shoehorned in with little effect. As Ryan lies in bed, looking all sad and recalling how his dad left him for a watch, you cannot help but expect it all to end with another silly ‘gotcha’ joke. Don’t blame us if we don’t believe the boy who cried wolf.
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Coming back to that big budget, Netflix needs to be audited to show where it all went. The meandering plot takes our cop-thief pair to a bull-fighting arena and that bull and the entire CGI surroundings look laughably fake. They then take a train through some more fake, CGI landscapes and a few action sequences needed another week of rendering at least. The entire film has a very made-in-a-studio feel. The heroes’ travels take them to Argentina, represented by a few bushes and a tiny waterfall. Rome, Bali and a dozen other locations flash in big red fonts but the action is almost always indoors.
With stars and scale not working to its advantage, Red Notice has little to save it. This is no National Treasure or Da Vinci Code despite the history, myths and treasure hunts it attaches itself to. Cleopatra’s relics and Nazi loot can make even a History Channel documentary interesting but Rawson Marshall Thurber is too busy making Gal and Dwayne do the sexy waltz rather than find the heart of his movie.
I often wondered if everyone involved is actually in on the joke. Searching through a loot bunker, Ryan Reynolds tells Dwayne Johnson to look for the treasure, saying that it’d be marked with the words MacGuffin. He whistles Raiders of the Lost Ark and turns up for the treasure hunt in an Indiana Jones costume. Is this film actually a big, very expensive practical joke? That could change a lot of things.