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‘Red Notice’: Is it Worth Your Notice?

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Editor’s Note: This article contains spoilers for Hulu’s “Red Notice.”

Netflix released its latest heist adventure-action film “Red Notice” on Nov. 5 with a star-packed cast including Dwayne Johnson, Ryan Reynolds and Gal Gadot. Assembling three of the world’s biggest action stars into a jam-packed action comedy film that involves larceny and laughter seems to be an exciting prospect for viewers to anticipate. Critics, however, found it boring.

As defined in the film, the term red notice refers to “the highest level of arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL)” that is specifically reserved for the world’s most wanted criminals. 

Directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber, the film centers around Special Agent and FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit profiler John Hartley (Dwayne Johnson) who is tasked with catching notorious art thief Nolan Booth (Ryan Reynolds). When a wealthy man offers up a $300 million reward to those who bring him Cleopatra’s missing three priceless golden eggs, Booth sets out to obtain them. Under the guidance of an anonymous tipper named The Bishop (Gal Gadot), Hartley and his team were able to successfully capture Booth. However, the Bishop quickly outsmarted Hartley and managed to frame him as an accomplice to Booth’s theft crime. In order to repair Hartley’s reputation and reclaim Booth’s title of being the world’s greatest art thief, Hartley and Booth end up working together to hunt for all three eggs before the Bishop does. 

With an estimated budget of $200 million, “Red Notice” did not fail to disappoint the audience with its globe-trooping set pieces that involved glitzy museums, dreary prison cells, a thrilling bullfighting ring and a hidden secret tunnel deep within the South American forest. The characters’ hunt for Cleopatra’s three missing eggs takes the audience on a wild journey to many exotic travel destinations such as Bali, Russia, Argentina and Egypt, where Hartley and Booth not only fight for their lives, but also learn to tolerate each other. 

By throwing in some historical conspiracy theories that hint towards Hitler’s involvement with Cleopatra’s golden eggs, it gives flavor and artistry to the film’s already-generic plot that engages viewers, and works in setting the film aside from any other action-thriller. The inclusion of the Bishop further increases the tension between the characters, as she always seems to be one step ahead of Martley and Booth. Despite this, some of the film’s action sequences actually had to be completely reworked due to the pandemic that halted production for six months. While more strict health measures were set in stone when filming resumed, Thurber still managed to pull off an impressive chase scene, even if it was not his initial vision.

However, “Red Notice” falls short in further contributing something new to the action genre. Instead, it adheres to typical plot conventions and cliche stereotypes of “the lawful strongman, the cunning jester, and the femme fatale.”  Setting aside the comedic tone of the film, the audience gets a general understanding of every character’s motives but the lack of world building takes the edge off of any sense of stakes, danger, or urgency — a component that should still remain vital and present in every action film. Though the film’s plot twists may prove to be sufficient for some viewers, the plot itself may be considered as mediocre and predictable. 

What saves “Red Notice” from being a red flag movie is the chemistry shared between Johnson and Reynolds. Being complete polar opposites, Hartley appears to be a law-abiding and morally-conscious agent in comparison to Booth who is a motor-mouthed and self-conceited art thief. Despite their differences, this unlikely duo manages to play out an adorable bromance that the audience can expect from Johnson and Reynolds, who have both shared the screen before when Reynolds played a cameo in Johnson’s film “Hobbs and Shaw.” Their interactions feel organic and real, with die-hard fans guessing which jokes were unscripted and improvised in the final cut. While this contributes to the “feel-good” atmosphere of the film, some critics claim that Johnson and Reynolds barely acted because it felt as though they were just playing themselves in the film. In reference to the other characters that Johnson and Reynolds have played in their other works, there is little to no difference with their roles as Martley and Booth, making their acting further redundant and monotonous. 

In spite of the film’s flaws, it was intended to be a “feel-good” watch instead of a highly-anticipated blockbuster. Because of the film’s A-list cast, it is natural for the audience to have high expectations for the film, only to be let down when it appears to be like any other action-thriller movie. “Red Notice” is still a fun and enjoyable watch whenever you need a good laugh, especially if you are in the mood for some Indiana-Jones-esque heist-adventure. 

Annabella Johan is an Entertainment Intern for the fall 2021 quarter. She can be reached at ajohan@uci.edu.