Netflix appears determined to mine the big-budget action formulae in their strive to replicate the success of films such as Extraction and The Old Guard. But with a number of expensive films such as 6 Underground, Triple Frontier and Project Power garnering less than expected views, the streaming service’s hope to create more lucrative franchises hasn’t always been a success. Their latest effort is reportedly one of the most expensive original productions to date, with a teased $200m budget, reuniting Dwayne Johnson with director Rawson Marshall Thurber for their third collaboration.
Red Notice centres on FBI profiler John Hartley (Dwayne Johnson) as he’s forced to team up with one of the World’s best art thieves, Nolan Booth (Ryan Reynolds) to track down and locate three ancient Egyptian eggs before criminal mastermind The Bishop (Gal Gadot) gets her hands on them.
Lets address the elephant in the room, Red Notice truly is a derivative pastiche of previous films, featuring an absolutely ridiculous action-adventure come crime-heist plot which packs in nods to Raiders of the Lost Ark (Nazi hidden treasures!), The Hitman’s Bodyguard, Catch Me If You Can and National Treasure. With silly twists and turns, inept agents, fake hacking sequences, double crosses, paper thin villains and long cons a plenty, the narrative hits pretty much every genre cliche going, with nothing really new to set it apart. The script also feels like it was generated by an AI algorithm to target anyone and everyone – there’s a Borat quote, a Great British Bake Off reference, a terrible pop star cameo and an on the nose Vin Diesel dig. However, once the film finally hits it’s stride in the third act action-adventure sequence, it’s hard to deny the fun (but dumb) pull of the glossy popcorn flick.
Starring a trio of Hollywood’s biggest and most bankable stars, Thurber heavily relies on the pull of their star power, particularly mining the hugely charismatic central bromance of Dwayne Johnson and Ryan Reynolds. The duo thankfully spark a number of chuckles with their cutting quips and snarky takedowns, as they team up in a buddy comedy-esque setup. Reynolds once again playing an insufferably smug motormouth, while Johnson at least switches it up with a slightly goofier take on the man mountain role, hilariously ending up in a jungle again. Disappointingly, Gal Gadot feels very much a supporting character to the two male leads, often only appearing briefly to swoop in and steal the MacGuffin eggs at the last minute. It does appear that she’s having a lot of fun in the role though, outwitting and outcompeting Johnson and Reynold’s characters. A late stage reveal certainly stretches the concept of ‘chemistry’ though…
There’s plenty for action-adventure fans to enjoy, with a number of car chases, shoot outs, a foot chase through an Italian art museum and a prison break from a mountainous Russian fortress – complete with helicopters and rocket launchers! There’s also plenty of beautiful global locations featured, as the trio hop between Rome, Paris, Bali, Egypt and Valencia etc. Despite the big-budget, there’s a distinct generic sheen to it all, with many of the action sequences featuring an artificial green-screen look and feel. There’s also some absolutely terrible visual effects in the disappointing set pieces, along with a real over-reliance on first-person view (FPV) drone shots.
Red Notice is potentially one of the most formulaic and bland – yet surprisingly fun – action-comedies Netflix has churned out yet. If it wasn’t for the dynamic between the leading trio, this would certainly join the ranks of disappointing mediocre blockbusters such as 6 Underground, particularly when the streamer cancels some real TV gems before their prime like The OA and GLOW.