Netflix’s ‘Red Notice’: A Review
Netflix promised to deliver three things in their film Red Notice; action, comedy, and a good story. I got underwhelming action scenes, trite back and forth, and an underwhelming story. I felt like Red Notice is an homage to Indiana Jones that sacrifices quality for a star-studded cast.
When this movie was first announced, I was excited. I wanted to see some of my favorite actors in a film that seemed like it would become a new favorite. Imagine my shock when I started falling asleep a third of the way in.
The film opens up with background information on Cleopatra’s golden eggs. Ryan Reynolds is Nolan Booth, who is a thief attempting to steal these eggs. Gadot is The Bishop, who is also after the eggs. In this cat-and-mouse game, Dwayne Johnson is FBI agent John Hartley, who wants to track down both.
In the film’s first twist, Johnson’s character is accused of working together with Booth, and he heads to jail alongside him. It should come as no shock that they team up to steal the eggs. For Hartley, it’s about clearing his name and catching the elusive Bishop who framed him. For Booth, it’s about becoming the greatest art thief in the world by reuniting all three eggs. Here’s the rub: the third egg has been missing for 2000 years.
Now, this is not the first time Reynolds and Johnson have acted across from each other. They shared plenty of quips in Hobs and Shaw that had me in tears laughing. Their performance in Red Notice is a sadder repeat of that back-and-forth.
My hopes for Gal Gadot saving this sad sinking ship drowned after her first appearance as The Bishop. The biggest thing I’ve seen Gadot in was Wonder Woman. She showcased a new side to the character headlined by Lynda Carter in the ’70s.
Gadot doesn’t shine as a villainess, she cruises. Her portrayal of a spicy femme fatale feels forced at best. The role was centered around tropes. She is always one step ahead of everyone and has no discernable weakness. Beyond a few instances, much of what The Bishop provides, other characters could have done. The film included a smattering of sexy shots as well to keep her character interesting.
Typical of villains, her character tends to explain her entire plan to her opponents. This trope comes into play almost too many times.
The romance aspect in this film was unnecessary. The chemistry between Gadot and Johnson’s characters got lost. Between stilted dialogue and overdone tropes, the steamy “romance” felt off-putting and weird. Enemies ballroom dancing while exchanging threats, anyone? But, even following tried-and-true romance tropes, the performance isn’t believable.
Gadot’s character isn’t even named beyond her assumed moniker. The only true purpose The Bishop has is to get Hartley arrested and tell him Booth knows where the third egg is. Their journey begins with escaping prison and a promise to trust each other. Unfortunately, the audience also witnesses a heart-to-heart where they discuss their “daddy issues”.
Gadot’s character also has issues with her father. Unlike our leading men, she discusses them with a man she tied up after breaking into his office. Cue more monologuing that reveals pointless information and does not deepen her character.
Netflix’s promises couldn’t live up to the final product. The trailer for ‘Red Notice’ ended up being twice the cinematic work the movie was. I wondered if this was a script Rawson Marshal Thurber wrote in college and revived to meet his deadline.
The story has a corny overtone that isn’t saved by the jokes. Renalds acting like an awkward, quip-throwing third wheel is also annoying at times. Gal Gadot and Dwayne Johnson’s weird flirting sessions make the whole thing harder to watch.
This movie got a lot of audience approval. However, critics focused on the lacking performances and predictable story-telling. It tried for surprises at every turn but couldn’t deliver. A New York Times article attributed this to the actors.
I would have enjoyed seeing lesser-known actors take the Netflix Stage in these roles. Unfortunately, Netflix chose to hedge their bets with the casting decisions. With the casting directors loading the roles with big names, an audience will watch the film. This means the story doesn’t have to be great or even good; it only has to be there. We know this, the producers know this, and the actors do as well.
I agree with the Times about the almost bored performances by Gadot, Reynolds, and Johnson. This isn’t the first of Netflix’s attempts at creating exciting original works that fall flat. If you had the misfortune of watching The Open House, you know what I’m talking about. The horror film starring 13 Reasons Why’s Dylan Minette, had a promising premise. Yet the movie lacked proper execution. The Do-Over, featuring Adam Sandler and David Spade, also fell through. This film, like Red Notice, became a repeat of Sandler and Spade’s previous performances.
It’s clear to me that Red Notice was made to make money. Netflix is all about the money and subscription increases. They demanded a consumable film with an A-list cast. It’s almost like the producers went down a list, checking boxes until they had a basic blockbuster.
This film, and many others, suffered from over-promotion. It got the audience’s hopes up, then left them wondering, “Is that it?” It’s ordering a fancy steak dinner and getting a microwaved meal with a $70 price tag. I’d hazard a guess that this movie delivered more on fan service than anything else.
This is by no means a bad film. Being a labor of money rather than love does not mean that a film is bad. It’s not the extravaganza Netflix promised.
Regarding the cast, many long-time fans will be happy to see these actors duke it out in heists while evading the law. The law being Ritu Arya, also in Umbrella Academy. Arya did a great job as Detective Nas, an Interpol agent. She arrests not only Booth but Hartley and continues to track them when they escape. While not appearing often, Arya seemed the most dedicated to living her role. I wish she got more screen time.
This movie is an easy way to spend two hours if you have them or if you want something on in the background. While not a family film, it’s perfect for older kids and friends who are getting together for a movie night. It is easy to follow, with plenty of laughs.
I will say that after I knew what I was dealing with, it became much easier to enjoy the film. The quips zip past as often as bullets do, and the pacing keeps the story moving forward while not rushing. But, I would much rather rewatch Army of Thieves if I have the option.
Photo by Jason Dent on Unsplash