Red Notice (2021)
Directed by: Rawson Marshall Thurber
Premise: An infamous art thief (Ryan Reynolds) teams with an FBI agent (Dwayne Johnson) to find a set of three Egyptian artifacts before another thief (Gal Gadot) gets ahold of them.
What Works: Red Notice is an undemanding action picture and it has a few serviceable set pieces. The opening in particular impresses with its choreography and parkour-influenced stunts. The movie pairs Ryan Reynolds with Dwayne Johnson and it’s a good combination. Neither actor is stretching himself here—they are both playing stock versions of their Hollywood personas—but Reynolds is in good humor and Johnson has never shied away from poking fun at himself. Their banter is agreeable and the comedy softens the rest of the movie’s many flaws.
What Doesn’t: Red Notice strives to be the kind of international archeological adventure seen in the Indiana Jones and National Treasure series. It comes up far short. As is often the case, the problems are rooted in the story which is a disaster. The McGuffin of Red Notice is a trio of decorative gold and jewel encrusted eggs that were once owned by Cleopatra. There are no stakes associated with these objects. In Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indiana Jones must prevent the Nazis from using the Ark of the Covenant for malevolent ends and in National Treasure Nicolas Cage’s character seeks to vindicate his family name. Nothing like that exists in Red Notice. There are no consequences or personal stakes hinging upon who gets the McGuffin and so there’s no drama to this story. The film introduces psychological background to Reynolds’ character but this never figures into the story in a meaningful way. The characters continually make ridiculous and illogical choices. Dwayne Johnson’s character is an FBI agent who is framed and allies with Reynolds’ outlaw to clear his name. But Johnson’s character passes over obvious opportunities to rejoin the side of the law. The narrative goes fully off the rails in the ending. Red Notice concludes on a twist that doesn’t make any sense and punches all sorts of logical holes into the earlier portions of the film. This is the kind of storytelling that’s trying so hard to outsmart the audience that it ends up insulting our intelligence. Red Notice also suffers from the casting of Gal Gadot as the villain. Gadot is a good actress but she is not threatening or intimidating. Without a coherent story or a menacing villain, Red Notice is a series of meaningless set pieces populated by uninteresting characters.
DVD extras: Currently on Netflix.
Bottom Line: Red Notice is bereft of even a basic understanding of storytelling. The filmmakers try to skirt by on the charisma and humor of its principal actors but there’s no covering for the lazy and inept storytelling.
Episode: #879 (November 21, 2021)