Title: Red Notice
Director: Rawson Marshall Turner
Writer: Rawson Marshall Turner
Stars: Dwayne Johnson, Ryan Reynolds, Gal Gadot
What happens when you take three of the most charismatic (and expensive) people working in Hollywood and put them into the same Indiana Jones and National Treasure-inspired action-heist flick? You would have a winner, right? One would think so. I certainly did. I even bought the popcorn! Dwayne Johnson, Ryan Reynolds and Gal Gadot rarely fail to bring the thrills and laughs. But despite some charm and excellent action setpieces, Red Notice feels synthetic and mass-produced.
In Red Notice, we’re going on an egg hunt. No, this has nothing to do with bunnies or some very early Easter celebration. These are the golden Eggs of Cleopatra. I made that sound even weirder, didn’t I? Anyway: Three rivals are after the same priceless 2000-year-old artifacts: The art thief Nolan Booth (played by Ryan Reynolds), the art thief known only as The Bishop (played by Gal Gadot) and FBI agent John Hartley (played by Dwayne Johnson).
And I could string together a bunch of cliches right about now, writing stuff like “it’s a cat and mouse game” and “a question of who frames who.” And true to form for movies in the international heist genre (of which there are many, such as the newly released and much better Army of Thieves), the three are all chased around the world by the obligatory and overly enthusiastic cookie-cutter Interpol agent (played by Ritu Arya), who pops up at the most strange and most inopportune moments and places to put our three protagonists behind bars. To be sure, there is little originality to be found in Red Notice; we’ve seen it all before.
The Heist of the Ages
The McGuffin of the day is the three invaluable Eggs of Cleopatra, which the Roman general Mark Antony gave to her beloved her on their wedding day. After the couple’s deaths by suicide (their history was a tragic one), the eggs were separated and found their way into the hands of various thieves, art collectors and other wealthy eccentrics up through history.
These days the two of the eggs are in the hands of these art thieves: The Bishop has one (again, that’s the character played by Gal Gadot, not your local bishop!), and at the beginning of the film, Nolan Booth steals the second one, all while being chased by John Hartley and the Interpol. These shenanigans end in Nolan’s arrest, but The Bishop frames him and Hartley, sending them to a Russian gulag.
Action and hilarity ensue when Nolan and John team up to escape the jail and go after the third egg. Ryan Reynolds plays pretty much as he always does, with witty quips and sarcastic comebacks to Dwayne Johnson’s muscle and brute force way of doing things. And I say Ryan Reynolds and Dwayne Johnson instead of their character names here, as they are both playing the roles they usually seem to do: witty loud mouth and muscle-bound brawler. This works, for the most part, as both have lots of charm to spare. It is fun to watch, just don’t overthink it. Rawson Marshall Turner assuredly didn’t while writing the script for Red Notice.
Gal Gadot’s The Bishop is the foil of the two men’s plans to acquire the third Egg of Cleopatra. Always one step ahead, outfoxing, seducing and tricking the two men with cons, tricks and charm. Despite being the most convincing of the three, even Gal Gadot still seems like she’s running on autopilot, playing her charming self. There is little depth in her character or any of the three “frienemy” protagonists, for that matter. But still, it is fun to watch, and maybe we shouldn’t ask for more?
Too Much of a Good Thing
But is there such a thing as too much charm? One would think that the star power behind a cast consisting of Dwayne Johnson, Ryan Reynolds and Gal Gadot would take a film to the top of any list. By themselves, each one of these three A-list actors can carry any blockbuster. But having the three of them in one film seems to have created a problem for Red Notice (besides straining the budget to pay their salaries!). It is fun, charming and filled with action and wit, to be sure. But having the three of them in one film makes them largely cancel each other out. And it is a shame because these three are among my Hollywood favorites.
Red Notice has all the cliche’s lines up. I’m sure it was meant as a love letter of sorts to fans of the Indiana Jones franchise and films like National Treasure and the upcoming Uncharted. There are a lot of exotic locations, exciting action scenes and witty winks through the fourth wall. But in trying to cram it all into one movie makes the film burst at the seams and buckle under the weight of its three larger-than-life Hollywood stars.
Red Notice is a fun enough action-adventure film if you don’t overthink it or expect too much of the story or its characters. It is at best a homage to better films but might be worth a watch, especially if you’re a die-hard fan of the genre or the cast.
But that Ed Sheeran cameo, they could have done without!
Red Notice arrives at Netflix on November 12th.