Red Notice is such an uninspired caper that feels more like a stock film placed in the background of a cartoon.
Red Notice (2021) Review By Mark McPherson
Published on November 24, 2021
Rating 1 /5
Red Notice should be touted as exhibit A in the case of how an A-list cast doesn't make an A-list movie. Here you have blockbuster magnets of Dwayne Johnson and Ryan Reynolds saddled together in an action-adventure caper. They also occupy a film with an abundance of fight scenes and visual effects that most likely cost a pretty penny. And all of it amounts to a whole lot of nothing.
It's clear that both Johnson and Reynolds were cast to play themselves and little else. There's not much to their characters of a special agent John Hartley (Johnson) and a master thief Nolan Booth (Reynolds). Gal Gadot is also present in the film as the wild card of Sarah Black, working alongside Booth but with loyalties that seem to fluctuate. The cat and mouse chase is pretty standard. Nolan steals a valuable museum item in broad daylight and Booth pursues him. They exchange some quips, have some fights, a handful of showdowns, and an escape is made.
The film forces Johnson and Reynolds together when Booth is placed on the most-wanted list for a betrayal he has yet to unearth. This, too, also feels standard. Let’s be real here; you don’t cast Johnson and Reynolds in a picture such as this and not force them together as much as possible. Sure enough, they share a heavy amount of scenes together, far more than the cunning Gadot. The problem is that the expected chemistry isn’t present. The jokes are all there but the characters we care about never feel like they’re on screen. It takes you out of the film. You’re not watching Johnson and Reynolds playing two charming figures clashing amid a heist. You’re just watching Johnson and Reynolds playing themselves.
I tried to gravitate towards something else in the film but there’s little extra thrill past a passable action heist picture. The fight scenes are decent though they all come with tacked-on punchlines that never land. Consider the scene where Reynolds ambushes a guard who is scrolling through social media. Reynolds merely comments “oh, that looks like fun” and the fight starts. It’s a long, long way from his silliness present in Deadpool. Johnson also doesn’t have much appeal as the straight man who tries and fails to beat Reynolds. There’s some passive commentary on the nature of the story and its tropes but never any attempt to subvert them.
Perhaps one of the most agonizing sequences features Johnson and Reynolds stumbling into a bullfight. The bull is CGI and we wait for that predictable moment where one of them is charged by the bull and flung back like a cartoon character. While we wait, Johnson and Reynolds argue about tactics for calming a bull that leads towards them bickering about Jurassic Park. The punchline here is that Reynolds wasn’t aware Jeff Goldblum was in Jurassic Park. Not the best punchline, even with the blurred slapstick of Reynolds being shoved by a bull and popping back up like a Looney Tunes cartoon.
Red Notice is such an uninspired caper that feels more like a stock film placed in the background of a cartoon. The poster is predictably lazy by just saddling the trio of Reynolds, Johnson, and Gadot in formal attire with a blank background, assuming that’s all the audience will need to get giddy for such a picture. The truth is that this film was in desperate need of some rewrites to both the banter and the twists, both struggling to ever be anything more than the business-as-usual for a high-energy farce. All the gas is in this vehicle and all it commits to is donuts in a parking lot.
Mark has been a professional film critic for over five years and a film lover all his life.