Red Notice – Rawson Marshall On paper, Thurber’s “Red Notice” should function. It has a fascinating ensemble who are whisked across the world on a treasure hunt right out of a “Indiana Jones” film. What could possibly go wrong? For starters, Thurber and everyone else involved completely overlooked the concept of personality. I’ve rarely seen a film that feels more like it was made by a machine, a product for a content algorithm rather than anything resembling creative purpose or even a genuine desire to amuse. And, while the Hollywood machine has produced superb blockbusters for centuries (I miss those days).
It appears that we are rapidly approaching a stage where they are so calculated and programmed that the human aspect has been totally removed, rendering them as disposable as a fast restaurant hamburger. Worst of all, that “content” approach is sucking the vitality out of performers who had previously exhibited a lot of it. When the poster for “Red Notice” was first revealed, the majority of people complained about how Photoshopped and uninteresting it was. They didn’t understand how well it depicted the film.
Thurber, who directed “Central Intelligence” and “Skyscraper” (all of which I appreciated on their own merits), reunites with his muse, Dwayne Johnson, who portrays FBI top profiler John Hartley. The film begins with a clumsily introduced information dump about three prized eggs that were formerly Cleopatra’s property. Only two have been found, turning the missing golden egg into a Holy Grail for treasure hunters such as Nolan Booth, one of the world’s most known criminals (Ryan Reynolds).
Hartley catches Booth trying to take one of the eggs in the film’s rather successful opening action, accidentally locking the two into a classic buddy comedy dynamic—the muscular man and the quick talker—for the remainder of the film. As they bounce throughout the world, they battle the government, a few bad guys, and another criminal mastermind known as The Bishop (Gal Gadot), all in the hopes of obtaining all three eggs and selling them to the highest bidder.
Films like “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and “National Treasure” were apparent influences on “Red Notice,” yet it would be an understatement to suggest that it lacks the individuality of great action/adventure films. Thurber’s intention appears to have been to simply put Reynolds, Johnson, and Gadot on camera and let their screen presence and known tactics carry the tale, and the weight of that responsibility is palpable. Johnson has never been this wooden in his acting career, unable to discover the hero or everyman in a non-character.
He needs to figure out what’s next since he appears to be bored of parts like this one, and he’s far too magnetic to express exhaustion in the next phase of his career. Reynolds fared a little better, but you could almost feel him tire of his smart shtick as more of his attempts at comedy thud than normal. Everyone seemed to think that casting would be enough to make “Red Notice” appealing, but then they forgot to offer their actors nice things to do. There’s a lot of running and chatter, but it all starts to melt together into cinematic paste.
People have bemoaned the fact that Netflix is increasingly producing content that is built to be seen with a phone in hand, and I don’t think I’ve ever felt this more strongly than when watching “Red Notice.” It’s the iPhone app of action movies, made for $200 million with none of that money spent on anything with a human touch. Return to your phone if you find a gorgeous person in a nice environment jogging or shooting anything. While there are some genuinely absurd and yet yet predictable plot turns, there is practically no actual story here, and certainly none that will stick with you. And, while the landscapes are frequently stunning, they lack individuality.
Even the title seems like it was plucked from an Action Film Screenwriter course.
So much money, so much glitz, so much spectacle, and yet it all adds up to so little. “Red Notice” is about as ephemeral a film as you’ll see this year, with most Netflix users forgetting about it weeks later. In its concluding moments, it sets up a possible franchise (because, of course, it does)—let’s hope everyone involved forgets about it as well.
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