Released: 12th November
Seen: 12th November
Usually a film begins with a script or an idea, going through a lot of pre-production before they even think about casting but sometimes there are films that are made entirely around a single cast member. Those films that are either designed to really show off what an actor can do or just to play to their strengths… Red Notice is that latter film and it’s so ridiculously simple that it’s almost impossible to truly hate, but probably won’t be up there on the “best of the year” lists either.
Red Notice follows Agent John Hartley (Dwayne Johnson) who is tracking down one of the world’s most wanted art thieves, Nolan Booth (Ryan Reynolds). Upon catching him, John learns that Nolan was looking for one of the fabled eggs of Cleopatra on behalf of another master criminal known as The Bishop (Gal Gadot). Of course, things go awry and soon John is implicated in one of Nolan’s crimes, which leads to both of them being sent to a supermax prison together. Upon breaking out they realise they have to team up, find the egg and arrest the Bishop together in order to clear John Hartley’s name… and that’s just the start of this twisty tale.
So if you were tasked with designing a film that starred Dwayne Johnson, Ryan Reynolds and Gal Gadot I don’t think you could come up with a plot better suited to that trio than Red Notice. No film has ever been more designed to amplify each actor’s strengths. Dwayne gets most of the big cool action beats, Ryan throws out all the quips and Gal makes being mysterious look better than anyone else. No one does anything truly surprising, it’s just what you expect from that trio of actors… and it works.
It works because these three performers have such easy chemistry that it’s honestly just easy to go along with what’s happening. Most of Red Notice is just Dwayne and Ryan bantering between big action scenes before Gal comes in to call them both idiots every now and then and reveal the next big twist (most of which you could probably call within a few seconds of Gal’s entrances) but it works because each of them bounces off each other so well. Each person gets a moment to really show off how good they are at the things they’re known for and it’s just kind of comforting to watch.
There’s no real thinking required here, Red Notice is not a complicated movie to follow even with it revealing a double cross or a twist every 20 minutes. It’s your basic action adventure comedy with a cast made up of some of the biggest box office draws right now that plays it ridiculously safely. The good thing is that if you’re already a fan of the three lead actors (and I am) then congrats, Red Notice is basically designed to hit you in the sweet spot and give you a good solid time… of course if you’ve grown tired of any of the actors involved you’re not going to get something new here, you’ll get the same thing they’ve given for a while now but just thrown together in whatever order is needed to make them fit.
What Red Notice does do that’s actually kind of impressive is the action scenes, which happen with some regularity (naturally, look at that main cast, that’s the exact cast you use for a film with a ton of action and fight scenes) and all of them are pretty damn good. From an elaborate prison escape to a fight scene surrounded by priceless artifacts to a torture chamber escape scene that ends with running from a bull, there’s enough big fun action scenes that just work. They’re all well shot, well performed and thrilling enough to entertain pretty much everyone.
Red Notice is not trying too hard to be new and original, but it doesn’t really need to. It picked a bullet proof cast, handed them a very safe and simple action script and calibrated it just right to be entertaining enough to get by. It’s not world changing, but it’s enjoyable enough to get by. I’m not gonna say I’m excited about the film or the prospect of a sequel, but if a sequel were to happen (and it probably will because Netflix isn’t stupid, they landed this trio of actors so you can pretty much guarantee they’ll milk it for all it’s worth) then that’d be fine. It’s a fine movie that’s reliably entertaining, it won’t change the world but not everything has to. Some stuff can settle for just being good enough to get the job done.