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Film Review: Red Notice

15 November 21 words: George White

Red Notice is Netflix's most expensive film so far, but is it its best? Nah...

Director: Rawson Marshall Thurber
Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Ryan Reynolds, Gal Gadot
Running time: 118 minutes

Another month passes, and another generic action movie comes to Netflix. Death, taxes and all that jazz. In the past couple of years, the streaming giant has subjected audiences to bland storytelling through the likes of Extraction, Kate and 6 Underground. And, in Red Notice, the ever-growing list of uninspiring if mildly entertaining popcorn movies expands once again. Sure, there are enjoyable moments and, sure, director Rawson Marshall Thurber shows promise ahead of his eagerly anticipated big screen adaptation of Tom Clancy’s The Division, but other than that there is very little to rave about here. 

Red Notice follows FBI profiler John Hartley (Dwayne Johnson) as he is called into a museum to protect one of Cleopatra’s three famed golden eggs, only for Ryan Reynolds’ Nolan Booth – one of the world’s most prolific art thieves – to swoop in and steal it from under his nose. As Hartley tries to wrestle back that egg, as well as track down the other two, the pair (for reasons) become unlikely partners as they deal with the intrusive force of Gal Gadot’s The Bishop, another sketchy swindler on the hunt for money and power. 

This story might sound interesting on the surface, but it is told with such an extreme lack of subtlety and nuance that it unravels rather rapidly. The dynamics between certain characters – particularly Hartley and Booth – feel so forced and unearned that it is difficult to care about them. Surprisingly, the chemistry between the two also feels non-existent, with both of these A-list actors seemingly putting in minimal effort, simply going through the motions as they perform roles they’ve encountered countless times before.

A lot has been said of Reynolds’ performance, with many growing tired of his snarky shtick, urging him to branch out and show more of the extensive skill set that he undoubtedly possesses. And he is certainly a real talent; his more serious turns in the likes of Adventureland demonstrate his ability to deliver real bite and teeth, and even the more recent comedy Free Guy shows he can handle sincerity as well as any. It’s time he started to show more of this going forward.

It’s a shame that the script so often feels like it was written by a ten-year-old off their nut on E numbers

The absence of impactful acting ability from Johnson is slightly more forgivable – he’s never been the most layered performer – but his lack of charm and charisma here is still something of a disappointment. It’s not entirely his fault – he is saddled with perhaps one of the most bland action heroes of all time – but there is a definite sense that he never really gets out of second gear, coasting through the film with no real commitment to the role. Gal Gadot is undoubtedly the highlight on the performance front, clearly relishing the chance to go all-out sinister bad guy. 

While offering up painfully weak storytelling, Thurber has slightly more success in the director’s chair. Never afraid to throw the camera around and get close to the action, the man behind Dodgeball proves that he knows how to get pulses racing, kicking off the film with an enthralling chase scene stacked with crunching hand-to-hand combat and exciting acrobatics. There is a tendency to take things a tad too far, however, with Thurber trying unnecessary gimmicks and leaning into editing techniques that can feel disorientating, and the quality of the CGI is laughably poor considering the size of the budget. Yet, overall, the action is put together relatively well. 

It’s a shame, then, that the script so often feels like it was written by a ten-year-old off their nut on E numbers, concocting stupid scenarios and dropping in twists that can be seen from a mile off. It’s an even bigger shame that the quality of the cast isn’t able to drag this to a respectable standard, with most of the mega-money crew failing to really commit to the cause. The film ends on a cliffhanger that clearly angles for a sequel, but let’s just say this writer will pay no notice to whether that pans out or not...

Did you know? No one, including multiple anonymous henchmen, museum and prison guards, is shown dying in the movie.

Red Notice is now available on Netflix

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