November 7, 2021

Review: Ocean’s Three Steal More than the Show in “Red Notice”

Youd think that with the investment that makes Red Notice Netflix’s most expensive original movie ever, they would deliver more than a ridiculous, mediocre action movie. And yet, here we are.

With frequent Dwayne Johnson collaborator Rawson Marshall Thurber (Dodgeball, Central Intelligence) on writing and directing duties, it’s clear exactly what kind of movie we’re going to get. The opening scene sets the tone perfectly; as we’ve seen a million times before, in a million other heist movies, we get a narrated expositional sequence that sets up the items our main characters will be attempting to steal. This time, it’s the (very fictional) eggs of Cleopatra — priceless artifacts that should be “impossible to steal.” Nevertheless, our morally gray main characters will take the challenge and embark on an unnecessarily complicated journey to do so.

One thing I will say is that, bar the opening sequence, the plot finds its footing very quickly. We’re thrown into a museum chase where FBI profiler John Hartley (Dwayne Johnson) is pursuing art thief Nolan Booth (Ryan Reynolds). Booth is after Cleopatra’s eggs, but so is the Bishop (Gal Gadot), another, more elusive art thief. You can imagine how the rest of the story might play out: friendships are formed, secrets are revealed, long distances are traveled in impossibly short times — the staples of a traditional heist film.

All three leads are playing exactly the type of character you might expect them to: Johnson is the suave, burly tough guy, Reynolds is a wise-cracking, but surprisingly apt partner in crime, and Gadot is the mysterious, beguiling third player. Despite playing exactly to expectations, you just can’t go wrong with this cast, and the movie definitely knows it.

Needless to say, I can understand why Ryan Reynolds is taking a break from acting. He’s done a string of films where he plays practically the same character, and I can imagine that would get exhausting after a while. Granted, I don’t dislike what Reynolds does on screen, he’s a magnetic presence and he works very well with Johnson and Gadot — I just think it’s best when actors play against type. You won’t be seeing much of that here.

Occasionally, Red Notice punctuates its generally reliable stream of comedy with emotional beats, but it works just about as well as the same gimmick does in most of Thurber’s other films. You’ll have the most fun when the movie does what it does best — keeping us distracted with big, dumb action sequences, subliminally encouraging us to ignore the absurdity of what’s actually going on.

Red Notice works with the tools that it has, and ends up a perfectly entertaining, albeit very silly, globe-hopping heist comedy. The script isn’t the best, but the cast’s charisma and evident commitment make up for it. It delivers exactly what you expect — it’s up to you whether that’s a good or bad thing. 
[Grade: B]

Director: Rawson Marshall Thurber

Writer: Rawson Marshall Thurber

Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Ryan Reynolds, Gal Gadot
Rated: PG-13 for violence and action, some sexual references, and strong language
Available: Netflix
Fun Fact: Completely coincidentally, Gal Gadot is set to play Cleopatra in an upcoming biopic from Wonder Woman director Patty Jenkins.

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