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Review: Red Notice (2021)

There is better (and more) action and comedy in an episode of “Totally Spies!”

I have a growing theory about movie releases in the age of streaming: I believe that when big movie studios discover that their newest release is a big fat dud, they quickly sell off the distribution rights to whatever streaming platform can be duped into taking it off their hands. I’m sorry, but the evidence is really starting to mount. I’m still having nightmares about that atrocious Cinderella (2021) that God only knows how much Amazon paid for. By the way, check out my review for that movie, here. I have a feeling that Netflix paid even more for Red Notice (2021), an action-comedy heist movie starring Dwayne Johnson, Ryan Reynolds and Gal Gadot. Can you imagine the pretty penny Netflix spent on these attractive, charismatic leads in the hopes it would save this snoozefest? It certainly wasn’t enough because oh wow, did this movie test my patience.

Credit: / Netflix

Written and directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber, Red Notice follows CIA agent John Hartley as he is reluctantly paired with notorious art thief Nolan Booth after he is wrongly accused of being an accomplice in the criminal’s latest crime. The unlikely duo must work together to clear John’s name and apprehend The Bishop, an elusive art thief who has escaped both of them time and time again.

Red Notice starts on a high note with some slick, cool action worthy of a thriller, but after the first 15 minutes it takes a real nose dive. Billed as an action-comedy, the movie never successfully pulls off either genre nor does it reach its full potential. The movie has all the pieces to be a solidly entertaining heist comedy but gets bogged down by an atrociously slow runtime, blatant product placement and the feeling that Thurber is working less with a script and more of a checklist of “crime-thriller clichés.” The average movie-goer, the one who is easily entertained by the lowest bar and will mindlessly watch anything as long as there are quips, attractive faces and explosions may enjoy this movie. I on the other hand, was just enormously let down by its aggressive mediocrity. If you go into Red Notice expecting it to be a welcome breath of fresh air for the heist genre, than think again. The true crime here is how this shockingly dull, overly convoluted and poorly executed clunker of a movie robs you of nearly two hours of your life. Honestly, you’re good to skip large parts of the movie. I sure as Hell did. Go to the kitchen, spend 10 minutes making yourself a snack and a drink and then come back to the movie whenever you hear Gadot speaking. God knows I could have used a cocktail to get through this movie. 

Not even the all-star casting of Johnson, Reynolds and Gadot – a triad of actors who are normally dripping with charm and charisma – is enough to get me to earnestly recommend this movie. You would think that their combined star power would be enough to make up for a movie that is riddled with tired clichés, cringeworthy dialogue and a plot that is an honest to goodness chore to follow but that’s far from the truth. I firmly believe that none of these usually entertaining actors brought their A-game to Red Notice. Devoid of any real chemistry and hobbled by unfunny jokes and bloated dialogue, the movie never seems to know what to do with any of them. Good Lord, I just wanted to shush Reynolds. His incessant quipping and rambling quickly becomes insufferable and at one point I was actually offended his character made a lazy Miley Cyrus reference. I love Cyrus and saddened that her name had to be dragged into this movie. Let’s be honest: Reynolds really cannot act, can he? He really only has that one smarmy, handsome scoundrel schtick and that’s it. He doesn’t even have a decent chemistry with Johnson who gets saddled with him for a majority of the movie. Reynolds is doing so much, Johnson is doing so little and poor Gadot who is the best part is hardly in the movie. I truly believe Red Notice would have been slightly better with more skilled actors. Perhaps someone like Kristen Wiig or Steve Carell could have pulled off the line, “I know your browser history,” which is an actual taunt used by the movie’s antagonist. A line I think I’ve heard on almost every Nickelodeon sitcom. Pair that with not one, not two, but THREE “The Rock is bald” jokes and you have a script that sounds like it was written by a high-schooler. 

Everything about Red Notice is dismally disappointing. It’s just so middle of the road and been there done that for me I was bored from the get go. An abundance of convoluted and seemingly unnecessary information is laid out somewhat early on and I truly didn’t grasp any of it largely because the movie didn’t get me to care at all. The only thing I latched onto was the obvious giveaways and clues that made the inevitable surprise towards the finale so damn predictable. Seriously guys, you’ll see it coming from a mile away. Again, it can’t be stressed enough that I skipped multiple parts of this movie and to me it still felt like it was eight hours long. I could not believe it when I still had an HOUR left of Red Notice to endure. I swear to God, many times the stunts and effects were so poor that I felt like I was watching cutscenes from a James Bond video game. I know for a fact that I would have enjoyed this movie more if it were less average and more straight up bad. I can get behind a bad movie if I have enough snacks and wine. Honestly, I think action-comedies peaked with Spy (2015). I don’t think any movie has come close to reaching that level of perfection. 

Credit: / Netflix

The only even remotely enjoyable part of Red Notice for me is when Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is trampled by a stampeding bull and walks it off as if it were nothing. Yes, that scene really does happen in this movie about art thieves. Oh, and speaking of Johnson, it turns out that the only thing more hysterical and silly looking than him in an old-timey top hat is Johnson in a masquerade mask. Enjoy that image.

Will you see Red Notice?

Let me know in the comments or on social media!

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