Written by: Robin C. Farrell | November 11th, 2021
Red Notice (Rawson Marshall Thurber, 2021) 1½ out of 4 stars.
A heist-style action romp starring a team up (of sorts) between Dwayne Johnson (Jungle Cruise), Ryan Reynolds (Free Guy) and Gal Godot (Wonder Woman 1984) seems like an inescapable win, or at least a promise of a great time. Yet despite having so much going for it, Red Notice falls surprisingly short. Writer/director Rawson Marshall Thurber (Skyscraper) does offer some genuinely creative and fun visuals here, but they don’t entirely make up for the surface-level pastiche otherwise to be found.
The film doesn’t really commit in any direction. It’s too light to be add significant pressure or stakes to the characters’ lives, but also not light and comedic/silly/whimsical enough to be a breezy blast, either. There’s no real blood or threat behind the bullets that fly. We get some stereotypical “Russian baddies,” which feels horribly outdated, and there’s a random use of documentary-style footage and graphics, which could have been a more fun aesthetic to use, throughout.
It’s tempting to say that the trio of leads took on this project to have some fun, and maybe they did have a blast making this movie, but if they did, it doesn’t show, save maybe for a few moments with Godot. Reynolds is in full-on incessant snark mode here as art thief Nolan Booth. If you don’t enjoy his schtick, then Booth will likely grow tiresome, and fast at that. Johnson, meanwhile, is resigned to the almost stodgy, put-upon FBI Agent John Hartley, wasting his natural charm. In fact, these two, who can usually charm the pants off of anyone, lack a lot of chemistry, leaving them surprisingly flat opposite each other.
Overall, Red Notice feels like a massive underuse of everyone involved, especially Ritu Arya (Last Christmas) as Inspector Das, who is normally a pleasant surprise. The one exception, perhaps, is Director of Photography Markus Förderer (Bliss), as the cinematography of the action scenes is the one area where the film does shine. The opening sequence, especially, features an inventive use of drone shots, and there are also some cool silhouette fighting-shots later on (even if it does feel a smidge reminiscent of Kill Bill).
All of that said, however, the twist ending sets up a sequel, which boasts a far more compelling pitch. It certainly looks more fun, anyway. Whether that possibility makes seeing this one worth it depends entirely on how much benefit of the doubt you’re willing to grant Red Notice and how many other titles you have on your “to be watched” list.