2021, PG-13, 116 mins.
Dwayne Johnson as John Hartley / Ryan Reynolds as Nolan Booth / Gal Gadot as Sarah Black / Ritu Arya as Inspector Urvashi Das / Chris Diamantopoulos as Sotto VoceWritten and directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber
a moment in Netflix's new action comedy RED NOTICE that had me
incredulously rolling my eyes so much that I thought they were going to be
blasted out of the back of my skull.
the scene in question, Ryan Reynolds' character is being confronted by a
squad of Interpol agents that are looking to arrest this most wanted
thief. We see this guy
guzzling down on what appears to be gin...but it's not just any gin.
If you have an eagle eye like me, then you'll notice that on the
table next to the glass is a bottle of Aviation Gin, that has its label
oh-so-conveniently turned to the camera for quick brand identification.
Reynolds is a co-owner of Aviation Gin, a company with an estimated worth
of more than half a billion dollars.
placement doesn't get more astoundingly on the nose and aggressive minded
there's even another instance of distracting product placement just
minutes before this, which features a can of Coca-Cola being used to be
poured over a fake piece of antiquity.
The soda beverage instantly eats away and dissolves the phony item.
Now, this might be one of the first instances of product placement
that does not in any way shape or form frame the product in question in an
I was so turned off by RED NOTICE so early on that I started to observe other things happening in the frame opposite of stars Ryan Reynolds, Dwayne Johnson, and Gal Gadot, three of the most limitlessly attractive and likeable of performers. That's not a ringing endorsement of their star power and attractiveness, though, that permeates this globetrotting caper comedy, and considering that the aforementioned actors are being placed front and center here, the resulting film is a chronic misfire of alarming proportions. How could charismatic and beautiful people such as this trio just completely fizzle in this limp and creatively bankrupted NATIONAL TREASURE wanna-be? Perhaps even more scandalous was the fact that this is the streaming giant's most expensive movie to date at nearly $200 million. Now, much of that arguably went to covering the headliners' salaries (and Aviation Gin tie-ins!), but this film is hopelessly cheap looking at times. There's a sequence later in the story that has Reynolds and The Rock bickering with one another while obviously on a green screen stage that's masquerading as a stadium with an equally fake looking CG bull chasing them...and I had to pinch and remind myself that RED NOTICE cost $40 million more to produce than DUNE and impossibly appears about forty times cheaper looking than that sci-fi opus.
is how hundreds of millions are spent these days?
considering what must have been a mighty payday for the usually appealing
Johnson, he has never been so stiffly sleep walking through a film as he
is here playing FBI profiler John Hartley, who's in hot pursuit of master
thief Nolan (Reynolds) to bring this crook to justice. In the opening of the film, Nolan has just secured
Cleopatra's Egg, one of three eggs, actually, that are one of the most
sought after ancient treasures in the world.
Nolan is apprehended by John, but the latter's career and life is
pretty quickly ruined by a sabotaging hacker going by the alias The Bishop
(Gal Gadot), who - wouldn't ya know it - also wants the eggs all
for herself. She manages to
cunningly frame John for conspiring with Nolan for the early theft,
sending both of the men to a Russian prison to suffer.
Realizing that they can pool their respective skills and team-up to
take down and seek revenge on The Bishop and nab the last egg before she
can, the duo break out of the slammer and plot a devious plan of
comeuppance. Unfortunately for the pair, The Bishop has many more tricks
up her sleeve to keep them always at a great distance from achieving their
end game prize.
is one good scene in RED NOTICE that I admired.
One. It's a well choreographed and semi-kinky three-way fight
sequence pitting The Bishop rather dexterously beating the tar out of the
uncoordinated Nolan and John, who seem amusingly flabbergasted at just how
physically imposing and lethal she can be in a donnybrook. Now, there are very few actresses - or actors period - that
would convincingly make me believe that they could effectively and easily
top Johnson and Reynolds in a brawl...but it's definitely Wonder Woman
herself. The interplay and
verbal sparring between these performers should have absolutely ruled the
day of RED NOTICE, but beyond semi-inspired action sequences like this
it's pretty staggering just how little chemistry that, for example, these
stars have on screen. The
film tries to set up some sexual tension between Johnson and Gadot, but
they're a hopelessly incompatible pair here.
Johnson should have radiated wily charm, but seems mostly comatose
as the straight man in the film. Gadot
fares a bit better and tries to inject some playful spunk into her
character, but on paper she's not particularly well defined here...nor are
John and Nolan.
of Nolan...this character represents Reynolds in full-on motor-mouthed
Reynolds-ian mode that has a sarcastic quip for literally every exchange.
Reynolds is a good actor at this type of rat-ta-tat/give-and-take
and can unleash zingers with the best of them, but his schtick (which he
perfected to snarky perfection in the DEADPOOL
films) has become really, really, really tiresome to experience in
every film he occupies. I like the Canadian actor a lot, but he's become so woefully
typecast - perhaps by his own design - playing multiple iterations of his
widely popular Marvel Comics merc-with-the-mouth that it's becoming hard
to seem him branch out and try something different. This leads to ample creative staleness in most of his new
films, and seeing him embody the umpteenth iteration of a flippant
man-child persona that's a joke generation machine has become more irksome
lately. We need to see
Reynolds in more films like BURIED or MISSISSIPPI
GRIND than THE HITMAN'S
WIFE'S BODYGUARD and now this.
That's not good for his brand, but would be better for his career
And, yet again, I must ask: Why does RED NOTICE looks so cheap and shoddy? Director Rawson Marshall Thurber (who previously teamed up with Johnson on the okay CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE and the mostly meh SKYSCRAPER) has been given considerable financial resources to make his heist thriller visually stand out from the pack, but RED NOTICE looks like a shoddily constructed assembly line effort and lacks any sort of visual panache. Just considering the scope of the locations all around the world that this film takes viewers on, and many of which are augmented by some decidedly second-rate CGI. There were few times in RED NOTICE when I believed that its main stars were actually in Rome, Russia, London, or Egypt. That coliseum sequence referenced earlier is one of the many egregious offenders in the film, which seems to constantly flip the bird to any notion of practical and tangible location shooting. I was embarrassed for the actors in moments like this; RED NOTICE wants to look like it belongs in an epically staged playground with the other big genre boys, but it simply has the veneer of a made for TV effort throughout.
a waste of resources. And
talent. And our time.
Other things annoyed me to no end (sorry, I'm now in ranting and raving mode). RED NOTICE's attempts at sly meta humor are groan-inducing (hey, is that Reynolds humming John Williams' INDIANA JONES theme while raiding a tomb...how clever!). If the disposable and annoyingly derivative hatchet job like nature of this film isn't a turn-off enough, the screenplay then serves up one whopper of an unearned, would-be shocking plot twist at the eleventh hour that then goes out of its way to (sigh) set up a franchise with more of these films to come. I didn't buy the long con game contained within...like...at all, nor was I convinced that I ever want to watch another movie like this with Johnson, Gadot, and Reynolds sharing the screen again. There have been paycheck grabbing efforts for actors before, but RED NOTICE is perhaps the most deliberate that I've experienced as of late.
And don't forget, this is Netflix's most expensive film to date. It cost as much as one and a half DUNES.
this when all of our Netflix subscriptions go up again next year.