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A Rock, a Reynolds and a gal named Gal - ‘Red Notice’

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Sometimes, all you want is a big dumb action movie. You’re not interested in IP-driven blockbusters or massive franchises or any of that. You don’t want to worry about how this movie is impacted by what you’ve seen and/or how it will impact what you’re going to see. You just want explosions and movie stars and gunfights and quips and car chases and general big-budget tomfoolery.

That said … be careful what you wish for.

See, “Red Notice” – currently streaming on Netflix – has all of those things. It’s got an A-list trio at the top of the call sheet – The Rock, Ryan Reynolds and Gal Gadot. It has a huge budget – reportedly coming in at $200 million. It is an original idea, from a script penned by Rawson Marshall Thurber, who also directs the movie. Things blow up. There’s a heist AND a prison break. The Rock is strong and Ryan Reynolds is snarky and Gal Gadot is sexy. Fistfights and gunfire and explosions, double- and triple-crosses. It’s all in there.

It just doesn’t really work.

“Red Notice” is made up of a lot of pieces that should fit together, but don’t. There’s a flatness to it all that is prevalent to the point of distraction, with a vague feeling of disconnect permeating the entire film. The performances come off as a bit shoulder-shruggy, with everyone coasting on their preexisting personae; it feels surprisingly phoned-in in a lot of spots. The action sequences are so-so, with a couple of solid ones surrounded by some duds. The twists are telegraphed and characterizations are thin to the point of nonexistence. Rarely has such a big-time action film felt so sedentary.

Special Agent John Hartley (Dwayne Johnson) is an FBI profiler on the trail of a notorious art thief. He’s been assigned to assist Interpol agent Urvashi Das (Ritu Arya) in protecting one of three artifacts known as Cleopatra’s Eggs from being stolen by Nolan Booth (Ryan Reynolds). Through convoluted circumstances, Hartley and Das track Booth down and take him into custody, all thanks to intel provided to Hartley via another mysterious underworld type known only as “The Bishop.”

But when Hartley is framed for another egg-related crime, he winds up in a maximum-security prison … with Booth as his cellmate. That’s when he learns about a massive nine-figure payday for anyone who manages to collect all three of the eggs and present them to the buyer. It’s in the prison that the two finally come face to face with the Bishop (Gal Gadot), who lets slip that Booth is the only one privy to the location of the final egg.

What follows is a globe-spanning journey, with Hartley and Booth reluctantly teaming up in an effort to get to the third egg before the Bishop, giving Hartley a chance to clear his name and Booth a chance to assume the number one spot in the international art thief world. From the technologically advanced vault of an arms dealer to the jungles of South America, the two try to get ahead of Bishop, even as she seemingly has them stifled at every turn. As the journey continues, a connection slowly starts to build between the two men, though neither can fully trust the other. And all the while, Agent Das and the forces of Interpol are in hot pursuit.

That synopsis probably comes off as a bit generic, but the reality is that “Red Notice” itself is a bit generic. The movie hits all the notes of an action blockbuster, but each note rings just a bit false. And as those false notes pile up, things get cacophonous, with the intended tune largely lost amidst the noise.

Thurber should be a good fit for a movie like this – he has some experience with comedy and has a good working relationship with The Rock (this is their third collaboration, following “Central Intelligence” and “Skyscraper”). However, it almost feels as though he’s a bit too deferential to his movie star cast here; there’s a casualness to it all that is probably intended to play as cool but instead comes off as disinterested and/or lazy. Some of that can be chalked up to Thurber’s script as well, which feels underbaked and overstuffed, reliant largely on the charisma of the three leads to make up for its shortcomings.

The set pieces are generally fine, but not much more than that. There’s an early foot chase that feels promising, but that promise largely disappears into a morass of standard-issue action. It’s not that this stuff is bad, per se – it’s just not good enough to make up for other issues. Ultimately, it’s passable – barely – entertainment.

And the performances, frankly, are disappointing. The Rock has shown himself capable of serving as a sort-of straight man for action comedy, so it’s a bit of a bummer that there doesn’t seem to be much chemistry between him and Ryan Reynolds, who is fully embracing his usual motormouth shtick here. The two of them are like ships passing in the night, with neither one really connecting with the other, whether we’re talking pure comic stuff or more “emotional” interactions. It’s a less-than-the-sum-of-their-parts situation. And then you throw in Gal Gadot. Her undeniably striking physicality can’t carry her here and she doesn’t have the comedic chops and/or chemistry to get her the rest of the way. It’s an oddly disappointing turn from all three. There are other people in this movie – Aryu, Chris Diamantopoulos – but they absolutely do not matter. For better or worse, this film belongs to its three leads.

“Red Notice” should have been far better than it was – not great, perhaps, but certainly good. A trio of movie stars leading a big-budget action movie? That’s a high floor. And yet, the floor is what we got. It’s a situation where none of the pieces fit properly, resulting in a skewed final picture. “Red Notice” might be a heist movie, but in the end, the most valuable thing stolen might be your time.

[2 out of 5]

Last modified on Monday, 15 November 2021 10:53


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