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No true laughs or style in lackluster ‘Red Notice’

No true laughs or style in lackluster ‘Red Notice’

No true laughs or style in lackluster ‘Red Notice’
November 23
08:00 2021

“It doesn’t matter what you do, only matters what they think you’ve done.”

Writer-director Rawson Marshall Thurber’s  “Red Notice” is the kind of movie others make fun of for existing. It has big stars like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Ryan Reynolds and Gal Gadot, yet the result comes off as an unintentional parody of big-budget adventure movies. There are exotic locales, supposedly sexy stars and banter meant to deliver a laugh-a-minute, but very little of any of those parts actually function effectively. This is a masterclass in how not to make a blockbuster. 

Perhaps that’s a harsh start, so a rundown is in order. After being framed by the Bishop (Gadot), the world’s number one art thief, FBI profiler John Hartley (Johnson) teams up with the world’s second-best thief, Nolan Booth (Reynolds) to break out of prison and clear his name. To catch the Bishop, Booth and Hartley decide to track down three priceless artifacts she’s interested in: the three eggs of Cleopatra  Hijinks ensue through chases, art heists and shootouts. 

Now, a movie being cliché isn’t the problem. Polished characters, action and more can overcome and deliver an enjoyable experience. “Red Notice” has none of these. 

On the character side, both Johnson and Reynolds are doing the most basic versions of their schtick: Hartley has the same cocked eyebrow, laid-back seriousness and even some of the same outfits as most of Johnson’s past couple characters while Reynolds’ Booth can be boiled down a dime-store “Deadpool.” Booth’s entire deal is that he is sarcastic, constantly quipping and making pop culture references ranging from Etsy to “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” Whereas Deadpool poked fun at the clichés of comic book movies with genuinely creative insults and even compelling character arcs, Booth injects cheap shout-outs into nearly every single line of dialogue rather than anything clever. 

Interestingly, Gadot doesn’t run into the same problem as her co-stars, as the Bishop is actually the opposite of her usual casting: a more self-assured, arrogant and blithe antagonist rather than her usual more serious heroic roles. However, she doesn’t really bring anything to the table as this thief, nor does she simmer in her scenes with Johnson when the filmmakers are trying to inject some sexual tension. Her attempts at banter lack proper timing and chemistry can also be said for the trio of lead performers as a whole — they don’t mix well here.

The lack of any color to the characters also comes through in the world writer-director Thurber builds. This is the most paint-by-numbers version of the cat-and-mouse between cops and thieves ever, with not a single surprise aside from a near-ending twist blatantly contradicting multiple earlier scenes. There’s nothing interesting about the characters, the set pieces or the way they’re handled.

Speaking of which, the action is amongst Netflix’s poorest. Thurber has experience in the genre, having directed past mediocre Rock movies “Central Intelligence” and “Skyscraper” and he hasn’t gotten any better. Chases are choppily cut, trading potential well-done pulled back angles for quick close-ups and a lack of continuity in where any of the characters are while not doing anything interesting with the setups. There’s a bullfight while a raging gunman tries to kill the protagonists, there’s a chase through an old bunker and an art museum but not only do all of them crib from better movies, Thurber pulls none of it off. Especially obvious is when Johnson or the others are composited into an image, with the light either being too dark or shiny to sell the audience on them actually being in the location. 

By the way, “Red Notice” cost around $200 million to produce, and due to the especially poor green screen, looks less than a quarter of its substantial budget.  

Now, his direction is not without some praise — he does occasionally get some real good establishing shots on-location. Of note, drone pilot Johnny Schaer actually gets some real nice sequences, effortlessly steering the camera through some nice vistas with precision and seems to be responsible for the best bits of action in “Red Notice.” The set designers also designed some nice sets and some of the on-location scenery is genuinely pretty. It’s a shame the rest of the film fails to match their beauty.  

Bland and unoriginal to a complete fault, “Red Notice” is a really bad joke played on the audience. It doesn’t understand the parts it steals from better movies, the cast as a whole fail to elevate the sloppy material and hardly any aspect not feeling cynically put together. There are far better movies worth an audience’s notice. 

Will’s final rating: 1.25/5  

Image source Netflix

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Will Tarpley

Will Tarpley

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