How can an action comedy starring Dwayne Johnson, Ryan Reynolds, and Gal Gadot possibly be bad?
RED NOTICE (2021), a new action comedy now available on Netflix, has no business not being an absolute crowd-pleaser. Yet it’s not.
FBI agent John Hartley (Dwayne Johnson) is hot on the trail of the world’s most notorious art thief Nolan Booth (Ryan Reynolds). It doesn’t take long for Hartley to capture Booth, but soon afterwards, he finds himself framed for a crime, which gets him sent off to prison. Not only does he find himself in the same prison as Booth, but in the same cell! Now, how’s that for a realistic plot point? Truth be told, this film is played for laughs, and its story is filled with twists and turns, so ultimately this ridiculous turn of events does make sense in terms of the story, but like the rest of this movie, it’s so farfetched it just comes off as plain old dumb. Anyway, Hartley and Booth realize there’s a more dangerous player at large who is pulling all the strings, someone known as The Bishop (Gal Gadot), and so they decide to team up, escape from prison, and capture the Bishop so Hartley can clear his name and Booth can return to being the number one art thief.
This actually would be fun if the script were any good.
Yup, as usually is the case with films that struggle, it’s the script that sinks things. In this case, RED NOTICE was written and directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber, and he fares much better as a director than as a writer.
RED NOTICE is polished and contains a lot of neat action scenes, the best coming early on, the chase scene where Hartley pursues Booth and eventually captures him. This sequence is fast, furious, and fun. No complaints here. But as soon as characters start speaking and plot points roll, everyone and everything in this movie suffers from a case of the stupids.
It’s all supposed to be funny. Every five minutes or so it seems there’s a new plot twist, where this character now is teamed with that character, blah, blah, blah. But none of it works because no care is made to make it at all believable. For instance, even Hartley’s and Booth’s escape from prison is ludicrous. It happens only because it’s a plot point. In fact, everything these guys do works. There’s no conflict, push back, or anything indicating that this is anything more than a bad movie plot.
Plus these two guys do not like each other, and yet we’re supposed to believe they do? There’s a ridiculous torture scene where to get Booth to talk they torture Hartley. Booth says it’s a waste of time because he doesn’t care about Hartley, which is true, and yet he breaks down and speaks anyway. Forced and contrived, and stupid.
RED NOTICE is rated PG-13. It may as well have been rated G. It’s as sanitary and safe as you’re going to find an “action” movie. There’s some language, sure, but in terms of anything that resembles hard hitting action or risky humor? Nope.
Rawson Marshall Thurber also wrote and directed another Dwayne Johnson vehicle, the mediocre thriller SKYSCRAPER (2018) that also suffered from a lack of realism. That being said, I enjoyed SKYSCRAPER more than I did RED NOTICE.
Ryan Reynolds probably fares the best here as art thief Nolan Booth. He’s about the only character who made me laugh. However, he has about a gazillion gags in this movie and only about a quarter of them work, so there are a lot of misfires. And don’t expect Deadpool humor. This film is far too tame for that.
Dwayne Johnson pretty much plays the straight man to Reynolds’ antics. I usually really enjoy Dwayne Johnson. He possesses a very likeable screen persona. But here in RED NOTICE, I found him uncharacteristically dull and boring. Mostly because his character like the rest of this movie comes off as phony.
Gal Gadot doesn’t fare any better than Johnson. Her character, The Bishop, may be sexy, but she’s about as interesting as a bishop on a chess board. She does get one enjoyable fight sequence with Johnson and Reynolds, but again, without any relevance.
Ritu Arya plays Interpol agent Inspector Urvashi Das, and she’s about the only character in the movie who comes off as real. Unfortunately, all she gets to do throughout the movie is show up too late, allowing the three leads in this one to escape, time and time again.
And can you ask for a more lame title than RED NOTICE? How about RED NAPKIN? RED PAPER CLIP? RED TOOTHPICK? Actually those titles might be better. Truth be told, there is a reason for the title. Red Notice refers to Interpol’s highest level arrest warrant. So, there you have it. The reason for the lame title. It’s still a bad title.
I really wanted to enjoy RED NOTICE. When I sat down to watch it, I was in the mood for a clever action comedy starring three of my favorite actors, Dwayne Johnson, Ryan Reynolds, and Gal Gadot. And while they were in the movie, what was missing was the clever part. There’s really nothing intelligent about this one at all.
RED NOTICE plays more like dead notice, as in dead on arrival. Three talented actors, some slick action scenes, and a story that could have been fun are all wasted in a tale that spends no time whatsoever trying to make any of what happens on screen believable or plausible.