2021, PG-13, 117 min. Directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber. Starring Dwayne Johnson, Gal Gadot, Ryan Reynolds, Ritu Arya, Chris Diamantopoulos.
REVIEWED By Richard Whittaker, Fri., Nov. 5, 2021
How is a film in which Deadpool, Wonder Woman, and … well, the Rock meet onscreen for the first time not a bigger deal?
After lumpen buddy comedy Central Intelligence and modern disaster flick Skyscraper, this is writer/director Rawson Marshall Thurber’s third outing with Dwayne Johnson, and their best (admittedly, not a high bar to clear). It’s an overt nod to the classic era of globe-trotting Hong Kong comedy-actioneers and the American films that ripped them off. As in, there is a lot of Jackie Chan’s Armour of God and Nicolas Cage’s National Treasure in the fun, loud, but oddly immemorable Red Notice, the second in Netflix’s run of Reynolds' fight-and-flight flicks after the equally forgettable 6 Underground.
It’s every middling frenemies crime caper cliche (he’s an art thief! he’s a crime fighter! there’s a MacGuffin! and a stylish opponent!), bouncing between Rome, a Russian prison, Bali, London, Cairo, Argentina, and all soundstages in between. The script and characters don’t really matter a huge amount, since everything is dependent upon the charm and reputations of the stars. For those that want the obligatory rundown (coincidentally, the title of a much better vehicle for the Rock with a fast-talking sidekick), Johnson plays an FBI profiler who (through implausible means) has to team up with a wisecracking international art thief (Reynolds) and go on the run after another thief with an implausible name (Gadot) sets them both up so she can search for Cleopatra’s third egg, the provenance of which is set up in one of two dialogue-heavy expositional setups. Which is probably the right way to do it, since what you’re really waiting for is Reynolds and the Rock as the modern Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck in a selection of cartoonish sequences with a lot of added gunfire (all The A-Team-level of nonlethal).
Red Notice barely feels like a film, which is fine. It’s a series of set pieces flimsily bolted together with Reynolds doing the Reynolds thing, Johnson doing the Johnson thing, and Gadot doing the Gadot thing. You already know what those things are, and can probably guess how they hang together. There are a few mild jabs at character development (everyone has daddy issues), but the only real surprise is that, in 2021, you can still use Nazi treasure troves as a plot device.