Dwayne Johnson, Gal Gadot and Ryan Reynolds sleepwalk through a lazy adventure that never justifies its hefty $200 million price tag
Maybe it’s because of the much-touted $200 million price tag that Red Notice carries (the single most expensive film ever produced by Netflix), but the first thing you notice about this dishwater-dull heist caper is how cheap it looks. The GDP of a small nation might have been spent on this thing, though – starry lead trio aside – very little of that money seems to have made it to the screen. Throw in endless green-screen locations, weightless action with obvious stunt doubles, and tons of downright ugly design work, not to mention a snarkily generic script, and the result is one of the most instantly forgettable films of the year.
Presumably earning the lion’s share of that titanic budget are Ryan Reynolds, Dwayne Johnson, and Gal Gadot, who form an antagonistic trifecta all on the hunt for bejewelled eggs that formerly belonged to Cleopatra, worth roughly $300 million (and equal to one and a half Red Notices). Johnson plays FBI analyst John Hartley, while Reynolds and Gadot are rival thieves, him the notorious Nolan Booth and her the mysterious Bishop. After Hartley thwarts Booth’s first heist in Rome, the Bishop manages to get her hands on the egg, framing Hartley for the theft and managing to get him thrown in a Russian prison alongside Booth, forcing the pair to work together to find the eggs and clear Hartley’s name.
It’s the first of many plot points that are just hand-waved by writer-director Rawson Marshall Thurber, never believably explaining how anything is actually happening. Escapes are effortless, impossible geographical problems are solved off-screen, and all the characters (heroes and villains) aims their guns like they’re ten vodkas deep. Stakes are also non-existent from the off, so there are never any real thrills or triumphs. This is a film with the boring motions of a sub-sub-par Indiana Jones adventure.
Johnson and Reynolds are each pretty much genres unto themselves at this point, and your tolerance for Red Notice as a whole will depend on how much you enjoy their separate but semi-compatible schticks, as the pair really are on autopilot. They’ve both been much more fun as leads in the past than they are here (Reynolds looks particularly bored), and while Gadot is having more fun, she actually doesn’t get a whole lot of screen time, save for the incoherent, sequel-baiting final 20 minutes.
The most frustrating thing about Red Notice is that it didn’t even have to be all that good to be enjoyable. A mega-budget globe-trotting heist adventure not based on an existing IP should be a slam dunk by default, but Thurber and his cast can’t even muster up the basic fundamentals of an entertaining time at the movies. From leads with barely any chemistry to awful and repetitive set-pieces, it’s constantly tripping up over its own inadequacies, rushed and bloated at the same time. It’s too bland to be truly hateable, but it's also too bad to even remotely enjoy. Let’s just hope the inevitable sequels remember they're meant to be fun.
Red Notice is now streaming on Netflix.Where to watch