In the pitch, there’s plenty about Red Notice to generate excitement. It gives Gal Gadot a live-action non-Wonder Woman role that we actually get to see—sorry, Death on the Nile for whatever purgatory has ensnared you. It’s her first of those, save a cameo as herself, in five years.
The movie puts Dwayne Johnson in both romantic entanglements and in fights he loses. Both are very rare for him. Finally, it gives Ryan Reynolds the space to be a vaguely immoral smooth comedic chatterbox in a way that the Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard absolutely did not.
In the execution, however? Unfortunately, things don’t quite pay off as you’d hope.
Red Notice Unlikely to Put its Trio of Stars on Any “Most Wanted” List
Red Notice’s premise is an interesting enough idea to build a film around. It’s an art theft take on the “enemy of my enemy is my friend” premise. Nolan Booth (Ryan Reynolds) is the second-best art thief who only takes on the flashiest, riskiest scores. John Hartley (Dwayne Johnson) is an FBI profiler who’s tracking Booth. However, they elect to team up when they’re both outmaneuvered by The Bishop (Gal Gadot). They’re both highly motivated to take her down for both reasons of revenge and ego maintenance.
As I read that description, I realize this could well be a metaphor for men’s ego fragility when faced with a competent woman in their workspace. That would be an intriguing approach. That, however, is not this movie. So please don’t get your hopes up.
The most immediate problem is Notice’s script by writer-director Rawson Marshall Thurber is dumb as rocks. Or, maybe it just expects its audience to be that addled. While the movie’s twists get set up well enough, the screenplay can’t stop pointing them out to you in advance. Characters repeatedly highlight clues by literally asking about them. “How did you do that?” “Why did you shoot at them?” Meanwhile, the characters asked this never even attempt an answer, making the questionable event hang obviously in the air. It’s like watching the Riddler on his worst day.
Reynolds is someone whose comedic schtick rarely goes wrong for me. I can understand why others may not love his rapid-fire constant mild sarcastic quippy, but it works for me, usually. In Notice, however, the film puts so much weight on him as running commentary that he wears thin. In the last 15 minutes before the film’s epilogue, the sense that both the actor and the audience need a break becomes undeniable.
So Red Notice is a dumb action-comedy that overstays its welcome. Pretty clearly one to avoid, right?
In many ways, Notice is a throwback to the 90s action era where it was enough to throw together a collection of stars and then stand back and let them sparkle. The jokes probably could have benefitted from another pass, the action sequences feel a bit truncated, the plotting a little less than meticulously rendered. Still, sometimes you like to bask in charisma.
Besides, it isn’t as though the movie is entirely without wit or charm. Johnson and Reynolds play a more realistic version of their aggravated “best friends” routine from Hobbs & Shaw. Gadot being anything less than a moral paragon is fun, even if she generates significantly more charm as Diana than The Bishop. There’s a sly bit of deflation involving a sports car and “Sabotage” by the Beastie Boys.
The dual release confuses things as this is not a film that benefits from a larger scale. Having sampled it both ways, it certainly plays better on your television. There are different terms for the kind of feature Red Notice is: the Saturday afternoon on the couch film, the something to fold laundry movie. On that score, it’s a fine offering. It’s a dumb but charming action film that coasts on its leads’ charisma and the occasional “oh hey, that was a pretty good action scene” moment.
Red Notice will be nobody’s ideal of filmmaking. As cinematic junk food, though, it fills you up without giving you a tummy ache.