Let’s be honest; if you’re watching Netflix’s Red Notice it’s for one thing. Well, three things: Dwayne Johnson, Gal Gadot, and Ryan Reynolds. You can’t argue with the potential in uniting these three mega-stars for one snazzy, high-spirited comedy caper. They’ll probably all end up in a superhero movie together someday…actually, that’s very possible with Johnson and Gadot sharing the same DC universe and Reynolds like an expelled student from it. This indomitable trio is pretty much the only thing keeping this empty calorie flick together. Enjoy it for what it is, because it doesn’t aspire to be anything other than a reason to keep your Netflix subscription active a couple more hours.
Everybody plays according to type here, which should make their fans super happy. Johnson plays bruising FBI agent John Hartley, who is tipped off that the world’s most wanted thief Nolan Booth (Reynolds) is set to swipe one of the fabled golden faberge eggs given to Cleopatra by Mark Antony. There are three in total, one in the Rome museum about to be hit, another owned by a rich private collector, and another that is long-missing. You probably already figured it out, but the eggs don’t really matter much. They are excuses to bring these characters together. They might as well have been Cadbury Creme Eggs. The theft goes belly up with Hartley and Booth engaged in some fast-paced cat ‘n mouse play that ends up with them both in Bali at Booth’s tropical getaway. After Hartley and fellow Interpol inspector Urvashi Das (Ritu Arya) make the bust, the egg still manages to slip through their fingers. Das, assuming Hartley was in on the scam the whole time, tosses him in the gulag right alongside Booth, who is only too happy to talk incessantly about how much he hates this situation.
Turns out, both men are being played by The Bishop aka Sarah Black (Gadot), who is pulling their strings from the shadows. Actually, she’s pretty upfront about the whole thing, taking pleasure in making her opponents look like lumbering oafs. Hartley and Booth, who can barely get along well enough to stay in the same room, decide to put their differences aside.
For Johnson and Reynolds, Red Notice basically plays like a cross between two of their biggest individual franchises: Hobbs & Shaw and The Hitman’s Bodyguard. Reynolds rat-a-tat-tats insults and quick jabs at his co-star, while Johnson grimaces, smirks, and plays the charming tough guy. These two aren’t required to stretch much more than their facial muscles here, but the interplay between them is genuinely quite fun. Issues of trust pop up between these men on opposing sides of the law, with a healthy number of double-crosses keeping things off-balance.
The most enjoyable moments are watching Gadot shrug off her serious Wonder Woman persona for some playful villainy. Her performance isn’t even like her time in the similarly-paced Fast & Furious movies, but more like her double-identity role in the little-seen action comedy Keeping Up with the Joneses. The Baron always seems to have the guys’ number, whether it’s physically besting the cowardly Booth, or flirting with Hartley to get his guard down. A dance number between the two steams things up ala The Thomas Crown Affair, one of many films that Red Notice directly draws influence from, along with National Treasure and Indiana Jones.
Written and directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber, who began his career as an ace comedy filmmaker (We’re the Millers, Dodgeball) before swerving into action-comedy with Johnson in tow (Central Intelligence, Skyscraper), Red Notice leaps and bounds from one international setpiece to the next: from a Russian prison break to a bonkers underground copper mine chase. Reportedly the most expensive movie Netflix has ever produced at something north of $160M, one might think travel budget accounts for most of it. However, due to the pandemic, the entire thing was actually shot in Atlanta. I think we can guess where that money actually went, but when you have a chance to attract Johnson, Reynolds, and Gadot you do it. There’s even a certain popular redhead popstar who makes a funny cameo that was worth shelling out some coin for.
Red Notice doesn’t demand much of its stars, nor does it give them much to work with. But what it does give them is what their fans want to see, so how can you really get upset over that? If you like these three stars, and let’s be honest most of us do, then watching them play around in familiar spaces is hardly the worst thing in the world. You won’t feel like someone has stolen away with your precious time.
Red Notice is available in theaters on November 5th, then streams exclusively on Netflix beginning November 12th.