Action movies that are silly, fun, and rewatchable seem to be few and far between these days, but Red Notice somehow hits all the right beats for an action-adventure film. And frankly, it has no right to be this enjoyable. However, the reason because it hits all those right beats is because we’ve seen it all a million times. Red Notice is fun, but that’s because it’s incredibly derivative of movies with a unique voice.
Red Notice is National Treasure meets Indiana Jones meets a lot of True Lies. It plays to the viewer’s sense of nostalgia and at times, feels like it was made by Netflix’s algorithm to play to lovers of ’80s and ’90s action movies.
The film follows FBI agent John Hartley (Dwayne Johnson) who is after art thief Nolan Booth (Ryan Reynolds) as he attempts to steal a very decorative art piece. However, there’s another waiting in the wings, Bishop (Gal Gadot)–the most-wanted art thief in the world. Booth and Hartley team up to get a hold of other pieces–the fanciest of giant eggs once owned by Cleopatra–before Bishop can.
The movie is overly-layered to the point where things just feel silly, you see “surprise” twists coming from a mile away, and you’re so focused on what movies Red Notice is paying homage to that you start missing what’s going on. Case in point, at one point, Hartley walks up to Bishop at a classy party, who is looking at some art, and says, “Beautiful… the sculpture, I mean”–this lead me to laugh out loud way too loudly, and was a line of dialogue I rewound no fewer than three times. This conversation leads to a dance between the two at said party. This isn’t a “dance” as in a fight. It’s a dance, much like the one shared between Arnold Schwarzenegger and Tia Carrere in True Lies, which also kicked off after some very cheesy dialogue. What was happening during that sequence of events is overshadowed entirely by the fact we’re revisiting a really fun moment from a classic ’90s action movie.
Every beat of the movie desperately wants you to remember other movies that did it better. That’s quite the bummer to realize once the high of Red Notice has worn off. You’ve just watched the ’80s and ’90s action-adventure movies greatest hits album, and what was missing were those sweet transitional songs that tied everything together perfectly. Is this a bad thing? Not necessarily, as long as you realize that’s what the movie is trying to hit and you’re along for the ride. If you’re on board, you’ll be treated to action, comedy, and one of the weirdest characters in recent movie history.
Chris Diamantopoulos, primarily known as eccentric billionaire and wing door-enthusiast Russ Hannamen on Silicon Valley, plays Sotto Voce–an eccentric billionaire who collects pieces of high-valued art. Diamantopoulos’s vocal choice for the character can only be described as “David Attenborough needs his inhaler.” The light-British, breathy, posh accent is so bizarre and jarring, and then you notice the weird tattoos all over him, but he’s also super-rich, and then all you want is a two-hour long spinoff to learn more about this cinematic weirdo. Alas, as soon as that thought pops into your head, Voce is no longer part of the story.
Red Notice takes you on a circus tour of unusual and cliche places where action sequences will take place, like underneath a stadium hosting a bullfight, or on a scaffolding in a museum, or climbing up a bridge that was destroyed by a rocket launcher. The film isn’t bringing anything incredibly new to the table; however, it’s a blast to watch it play out. Will that bridge the hero is running across get blown up by the guy holding the rocket launcher and will the hero have to climb up the remnants of said bridge? Duh. Do I want to see that? Of course.
The film really pushes star power. The poster is just Gadot, Johnson, and Reynolds looking very classy in fancy clothes–which tells you absolutely nothing about the plot. They all play various aspects of the same character–they’re all very badass and cool but on different sides of the law. Johnson is an FBI agent, Reynolds is a quick-witted criminal with a heart of gold, and Gadot is a thief that’s one step ahead of everyone else. Gadot is supposed to be the antagonist, but no matter who triumphs in the end, I found myself perfectly happy with whoever it was.
The characters feel that paper thin for most of the movie, like they were just popped into existence prior to the story beginning. At times, backstories for each character creep in a bit, but you feel more investment with action sequences and globe hopping more than anything else. And Gadot, Johnson, and Reynolds do a fine job in the movie with what they got–Reynolds fires off jokes left and right, Johnson is once again playing that stoic tank, and Gadot is tough and cool. That’s all you really want from them.
Red Notice is what it is: a popcorn movie that will entertain the heck out of you and mainstream audiences will eat up. Sure, it’s very derivative, predictable, and silly, but that’s what we need. We need a break from reality to watch a plot that tries to be way more complicated than it should with a handful of twists, over and over again, that won’t shock anyone. Red Notice is a middle of the road movie that is one of the most fun experiences I’ve had during the pandemic.
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