Red Notice

Director: Rawson Marshall Thurber
Screenplay: Rawson Marshall Thurber
Stars: Dwayne Johnson (John Hartley), Ryan Reynolds (Nolan Booth), Gal Gadot (The Bishop), Ritu Arya (Inspector Urvashi Das), Chris Diamantopoulos (Sotto Voce), Ivan Mbakop (Tambwe), Vincenzo Amato (Director Gallo), Rafael Petardi (Security Chief Ricci), Seth Michaels (Souvenir Stand Owner), Sebastien Large (Gelato Truck Driver), Guy Nardulli (Museum Reporter / Italian VIP)
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Year of Release: 2021
Country: U.S.
Red Notice
Red Notice

I am not entirely sure why writer/director Rawson Marshall Thurber’s action comedy Red Notice has been greeted with such a scathing critical response. Granted, it is hardly an original work or one that significantly pushes any boundaries or explores any new territory. And one could certainly argue with some justification that it coasts far too much on Ryan Reynolds’s familiar snarky-deadpan banter (which could be said of a whole lot of Ryan Reynolds movies). But, at the same time, it is definitely entertaining and hits a few high notes here and there, especially when Reynolds’s banter runs headlone into Dwayne Johnson’s straight-man stoicism. Most of Thurber’s previous films have been similarly high-concept comedic action vehicles like Central Intelligence (2016) and Skyscraper (2018)—both of which, not incidentally, also starred Dwayne Johnson—although he first gained notice with Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story (2004), a cultishly funny-bizarre takedown of sports movie cliches that features a singularly unhinged performance by Ben Stiller. Thurber loves odd couples and weird conflicts and non-sequiturs, all of which he threads throughout Red Notice.

The story concerns the competing agendas of two world-renowned art thieves, Reynolds’s Nolan Booth and Gal Gadot’s The Bishop, the former of whom is being pursued by Johnson’s FBI agent John Hartley. For all his good deeds and hard work, Hartley is framed for an art theft and subsequently pursued by Interpol Inspector Urvashi Das (Ritu Arya), with whom he had previously worked in busting Booth. When Hartley finds himself sharing a Russian prison cell with Booth, he determines that the only way to clear his name is to work with his former nemesis to, first, break out of prison, and then steal several priceless eggs that were created for none other than Cleopatra and may very well not even exist (but, of course, we know they do). This involves all manner of covert hijinks and perfectly executed break-ins, including one in the mansion of Sotto Voce (Chris Diamantopoulos), a particularly ruthless drug dealer.

The set-up is all that—set-up—while the ostensible pay-off is the give and take among Johnson, Reynolds, and Gadot (I am not sure that we are really supposed to care who ends up with the eggs). Johnson is all stone-faced business, while Reynolds provides the sarcasm and Gadot delivers plenty of droll, cool confidence as she repeatedly outsmarts both of them. And, when it works, it is quite engaging and funny, and the whole thing flies by like the lark it is. Johnson, Reynolds, and Gadot deliver pretty much exactly what is expected of them, and Thurber sets up some good sequences, even if our engagement in them is sometimes foiled by less-than-convincing digital effects and their obviously derivative nature (at times it is hard not to expect that the Mission: Impossible theme will start playing). But, if you don’t expect too much and sit back for the ride, Red Notice is not without its distinct pleasures.

Copyright © 2021 James Kendrick

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Overall Rating: (2.5)

James Kendrick

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