“Satisfies as a simplistic action film”
RED NOTICE (2021)
I’ve made it no secret that Dwayne Johnson is someone I hold in particularly high regard. I’m not blind to the fact that he essentially plays (slight) variations of the same characters in each of his films, but he knows what lane works for him, and he’s a damn fine charismatic presence that he absolutely gets away with it. Something like Red Notice then is unsurprisingly right in my wheelhouse. I could wax lyrical on the fact that it’s essentially a film product born from an algorithm of what the general population find most appealing, but as a simplistic action film that fuses together the charm and sex appeal of Johnson, Ryan Reynolds and Gal Gadot, Red Notice more than satisfies – just don’t go in with exaggerated expectation.
Rawson Marshall Thurber hardly works beyond what’s expected of him. Red Notice basically plays out like he’s watched countless other action films, noted what works in the set-pieces, and recycled them in neat packages solely designed to highlight the buddy dynamic of Johnson and Reynolds. It’s not that Thurber himself is a bad director, he’s just a bit lazy, but when you let your actors lose the way he does here, it’s understandable that he resorts to auto-pilot and lets his leading men lean heavily into their shtick.
There’s a ton of familiar narrative strands on hand here – some even lifted from Johnson’s own back catalogue. There’s prison breaks, jungle stop-offs, international scenery, double crossing, triple crossing, and trusty old MacGuffins that project the plot forward every few minutes so as to not let the audience catch their breath. Johnson is the muscle (what else) trying to thwart Reynolds’ wise-cracking master thief, whilst Gadot’s slinky crime outwits them both at every possible turn. You’ve seen this done before, but, my word, is it an aesthetic pleasure to watch!
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
Johnson, Reynolds, and Gadot all play into their strengths as performers – brawn, humour and beauty, respectively – and though Thurber’s script doesn’t give them anything challenging to sink their teeth into, it’s difficult to not enjoy each of them clearly enjoying themselves in return. Obviously I would love something smarter for this trio, but as mindless entertainment, Red Notice’s easily digestible script ticks the suitable boxes.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
Though there’s no denying how stunning everyone looks – Gadot and Johnson are actual perfection – the film can’t easily conceal the fact that so much of the international locales appear overtly CGI’d.
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
Predictable it may be, but the soundtrack catering itself to whichever new international destination at least lends itself to the staple action genre move that very much highlights how safe this film truly is. Groundbreaking? Not at all, but it at least works in creating something of an enjoyable presence.
Johnson, Reynolds, and Gadot deserve an action film worthy of their talent and stature, but I can’t deny that Red Notice, even with all its obvious faults and lazy execution, is perfectly entertaining and a safe Netflix venture. The sequel bait is real, but I’m all here for it if it’s just more minutes of these three playing off each other. There truly are so few entertainers that we still so readily accept recycling their personas, but somehow this trio not only gets away with it, but continually reels us in for more.