Red Notice Synopsis: In the world of international crime, an Interpol agent (Dwayne Johnson) is forced to team up with a quick-witted thief (Ryan Reynolds) to capture the world’s most wanted art thief (Gal Gadot).
Three A-list stars and a globe-trotting narrative seem like the perfect canvas for big-screen thrills, but the advent of streaming has turned big-budget tentpoles, like Netflix’s latest Red Notice, into minor blimps in streamers endless algorithm of content. Labeled as the most expensive film in Netflix’s original content library, the potential franchise-starter is quietly rolling into theaters ahead of its Netflix debut later next week.
Contrary to how most will experience the two-hour, madcap adventure, I decided to check out Red Notice in the theater. While the formulaic experience doesn’t leave a lasting impact, writer/director Rawson Marshall Thunder spins an agreeable romp chock-full of popcorn movie pleasures.
For better and worse, Red Notice generates an experience equivalent to a satisfying yet unnutritious fast-food meal. Thunder, the former comedy-helmer (Dodgeball) turned blockbuster craftsperson (Central Intelligence and Skyscraper), creates a feature that exists without a distinct identity or substantive skeleton. The plotting slapdashedly races from one McGuffin plot point to another while the central trio of stars are left to manifest characters out of their well-trudged big-screen personas alone. Thunder doesn’t do much to reenergize these barebones elements either, relying upon a stew of familiar one-liners and conventionally-shot setpieces to whisk viewers along.
These elements aren’t exactly a winning formula, but Red Notice spins enough breezy escapism out of its aggressively by-the-book design. Dwayne Johnson, Ryan Reynolds, and Gal Gadot deserve a large slice of the credit. The trio certainly doesn’t stretch to any revelatory places, but each presents the movie star pop that has cemented them amongst the mainstream.
Johnson balances self-seriousness and self-awareness with his gravitating presence and smoldering gaze. Reynolds’ playful energy dishes out his usual arsenal of quippy one-liners, while Gadot comes to life onscreen as a grandstanding thief who remains two steps ahead of her foes. The three stars find a comfortable comradery amidst the chaos, playfully operating in full movie star mode without getting too cutesy within their shtick.
What Thunder lacks in visceral inventiveness, the tenured director more than makes up for in workmanlike steadiness. His favoritism of wide-shots is honestly refreshing in a climate dominated by flurrying handheld camera movements, as the technique allows him and Cinematographer Markus Förderer to bask in the scale of their varied settings. Red Notice flashes its luxurious budget any chance it gets, providing a hearty helping of tense gunfights and frenetic chases to compensate for what lacks under the surface.
Watching Red Notice’s spirited adventure imbued me with an odd sense of nostalgia. The film harkens to the kind of low-rent, movie-star driven shlock that studios shelled out weekly during summers before the rise of ever-dominating superhero films (think National Treasure or Knight and Day). Despite an entirely disposable design, Red Notice works as an agreeable start to a potential new franchise.
Red Notice is now playing in theaters before releasing on Netflix on November 12.
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