Netflix’s upcoming film, Red Notice, is most part tedious and unintelligible. It features three action heroes, played by the wonderfully attractive threesome comprised of Gal Gadot, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, and Ryan Reynolds, caught in an endless, frustrating loop of betrayals, double-crosses, and improbable escapes. Yet, by the time the film’s credits roll, and Netflix’s “next up” suggestion drowns out their soundtrack, after the unlikely trio has walked sensually into the proverbial sunset, you will likely be left awaiting the sequel.
Red Notice is a comedy heist movie. You have seen it before in films such as Ocean’s 11, The Italian Job and, in fact, in Reynolds’ first big screen hit, Two Guys and a Girl. These are inherently entertaining pieces and Red Notice, written and directed by Central Intelligence Director Rawson Marshall Thurber is no exception. The film is peppered with sarcastic as well as self-deprecating humor, and elicits many genuine laughs without relying too obviously on off-color (read: blue) or potty humor. But the script eventually relies too much on Reynolds’ signature sarcasm, becoming too heavy on scoffing acerbity, and twists itself into too many pretzels in an obvious but ultimately uninteresting attempt to keep the audience guessing. The three on-screen stars are as charming as ever, and this could be the beginning of a beautiful three-way friendship, but the opening salvo is nothing more than that: a promising but ineffective first attempt.
The film opens in ROME—the big, red, bold title cards that announce this are just one of the many monikers that Thurber recurs to on too many occasions. The Rock is FBI agent John Hartley, and is on the trail of Nolan Booth (Reynolds), who is set to steal a priceless artifact. In fact, the movie actually opens with a cartoonish historical lesson about three, jewel-encrusted golden eggs that Cleopatra had constructed for herself before her supposed suicide. This low-budget, tongue-in-cheek opening narrative is at least an honest telegraph of what you can expect: nothing very serious at all. Anyway, Hartley and Booth battle it up at a Roman museum, followed by a series of dizzying but surprisingly effective tracking shots made possible by Cinematographer Markus Forderer’s careful lighting against a sunny glass backdrop. The first of the three eggs ends up changing hands so many times that by the end it will seem like a hot potato, but, as it turns out, it is the enigmatic Sarah Black (Gadot) who pockets it. Black, also known as the mysterious “The Bishop,” is on the hunt to collect all three treasures for great riches, and usually remains a step ahead of the two hapless men who chase her, Hartley and Booth.
The film’s title is, of course, a reference to an alert issued by Interpol with respect to its most wanted criminals. The Bishop warrants such a warning, as her plans to appropriate the remaining items continue to play out as per her designs, with the other two seeming pawns in her games. The best part of these interactions is that between the three stars. The three are playing well-known versions of themselves—Gadot the sexy temptress, Johnson the bulky, serious head knocker, Reynolds the charming, witty, and satirical pretty boy. There is enough daylight between the auras of these three types of Hollywood personas to let all three occupy enough of the spotlight without cannibalizing any of the other and the film achieves its ultimate objective of making you believe that, somehow, the slighter Gadot could play with these two bigger guys like putty in her hands.
The problem, however, is that neither the Bishop, nor the savvy criminal Booth, nor the dangerously effective agent Hartley ever actually live up to the expectation of a “red notice.” Each is too funny, too clever, too innocent to telegraph danger. Each makes you laugh, none makes you cower. The story becomes convoluted and difficult to follow, at which point the constant gibing gets in the way rather than helps. Reynolds, in particular, becomes grating—through no fault of his own. He has taken the scoffing ironic second man—which launched him into international superstardom in Deadpool—to great, impressive levels. This trick will continue to work for him for a while, but there will be bumps along the road, such as the excessively scornful script he was handed for this film.
For all the attractiveness of this film—both the literal one of its starts and the figurative one of some of the script—Red Notice ultimately becomes scarred by falling for the excesses that at time can sink movies in this genre. Some of the action becomes extreme to the point of unbelievable, the jokes too repetitive to the point of unfunny, the convoluted plot twists twisted to the point of no recognition. Perhaps if these three reunite for a sequel, when the filmmakers will not feel the need to set up surprises between the main characters, some of the redder stains on the production will have been noticed—and eliminated.
Red Notice will hit select theaters on Friday, November 5, and then stream on Netflix on November 12.
All pictures courtesy Netflix.