Much has been made of the fact that Red Notice is the most expensive movie Netflix has ever made (a rumoured $200 million no less), but alongside making us question how the hell the streaming giant can bankroll this and cancel, say, The Santa Clarita Diet mid cliff hanger (something I’ll never forgive them for), it seems to also be a bid to bring good old fashioned star power back to movies.
Boasting the hulking pile of charismatic muscles known as Dwayne Johnson, impossibly handsome quip factory Ryan Renolds and the endless limbs of Gal Gadot, Netflix obviously thinks that heaping Black Adam, Deadpool and Wonder Woman into a single film will pay off somehow. But will the glittering star power of a thousand suns be enough to counteract the fact that Red Notice isn’t much more than if National Treasure had been scripted by a twelve year old.
Despite having the physique of a stone golem, John Hartley is actually a hugely talented FBI profiler who is currently on site to make sure that no pesky art thieves are planning to steal the first of three bejeweled eggs originally presented to Cleopatra by Marc Anthony. Sure enough, he’s able to spot a ridiculously complex Texas switch in effect that’s being pulled by international art nicker, Nolan Booth and after a slapstick laden chase involving the world’s least safe scaffolding, Nolan eventually gets away.
Days later Hartley catches up with his prey as he’s about to relax at home and invites plenty of Interpol agents to join the reunion, however, a second international art thief, the mysterious character known globally as The Bishop (real identity being the uber-slinky Sarah Black) infiltrates the arrest, steals the egg and frames Hartley for being in on the initial heist.
Sent to a remote Russian gulag to share a cell with the irritating Booth (surely a massive over reaction for a non-violent robbery with no fatalities), the two consistently get on each others nerves while planning a jail break while a smug visit from The Bishop lays out her entire plan. She’s planning to steal the first two eggs in order to track down the third – which apparently has never been found – in order for an Egyptian billionaire who’s going to present them to his daughter for her wedding and after Booth turns down her offer to team up, both he and his awkward new partner get down to the business of escaping and getting to the second egg before their competitor does.
Embarking on a global adventure that sees them engage in gun fights, nazi bunkers, car chases and getting mauled by an extremely pissed of bull, both Hartley and Booth bicker and bond as they get closer to their goal – but can an international art thief really be trusted?
Despite the fact that the cast bill must have been fairly hefty and that the movie bounces its characters all over the world, there’s something galling about Netflix spending so much on Red Notice when all it basically is is a knockabout action comedy that’s chiefly fueled by CGI action scenes and Ryan Reynolds’ unstoppable mouth. You’d hope that with all that cash, the filmmakers would turn out something at least fairly memorable, but Red Notice, for all of its refinery and bling, turns out to be as memorable as your last tax return. Thankfully, mostly due to Reynolds’ trademark brand of verbal diarea, it is quite a lot of fun, but by the time to make it to the end of the film, you’ll be hard pressed to remember much about the beginning – it’s like the cinematic equivalent of that thing that happens when you walk into a room and immediately forget what you came in for.
Directed by Dwayne Johnson regular Rawson Marshall Thunder (Central Intelligence, Skyscraper) with the visual flair of Michael Bay, Johnson and Gadot collect their paycheck and bestow their natural swagger to proceedings, but don’t particularly add much more and even though good old Reynolds is on decent form (pointing out that the back of Johnson’s head looks like a giant penis somehow feels long overdue) but other jokes about Post Malone, Miley Cyrus and Etsy feel like they’re relatively dated even as he’s saying them and possibly isn’t his “A” material. Still, top marks need to go to Ritu (Umbrella Academy) Arya in a usually thankless role as a determined Interpol agent who impressively manages to hold her own against the million kilowatt smiles of her mega-star peers.
The constant continent hopping keeps the threadbare plot (at one point Reynold’s even suggests in-film that they search for a box marked “macguffin”) moving at a fair pace, but due to the endless spectre of green screen it never actually feels like any of the leads traveled to any of the countries featured – even if they did. Still, the juxtaposition of Russian prisons, Bull fighting rings and the notion of once again sticking Johnson back into a jungle environment (wow, haven’t seen that in about 20 minutes) does manage to keep events somewhat varied, but it’s all so inescapablely empty that the film feels like it’ll have all the cultural impact of – well, Skyscraper.
Fast, but not particularly exciting and witty but not overly hilarious, you have to worry when the biggest laugh in an action comedy starring Hollywood’s hottest names comes from a cameo involving Ed Sheeran trying to fight off Interpol agents with his guitar – and I’m pretty sure that didn’t cost two hundred mill… still, at least it’s not as hateful an experience as 6 Underground. Yep, it seems that once again the curse of Neflix’s movie division strikes once more to deliver a generally pleasing action romp that ultimately turns out to be as hollow as a halloween pumpkin.