‘Red Notice’ review: Netflix puts blockbuster budget on the small screen

The streamer's tentpole action movie boasts an all-star cast – but can it deliver the goods?

Rumoured to be Netflix’s most expensive Original to date, Red Notice is about as unoriginal as you can get – a cynical mash-up of National Treasure, Mission: Impossible, Indiana Jones and Rush Hour. It was clearly conceived in a boardroom by studio execs searching for the formula to a sure-fire hit – jamming Hollywood’s most bankable stars into an over-proven format that never really works. And yet… it’s also a whole lot of fun.

Built entirely out of video game action and cartoon logic, Red Notice is certainly derivative – but anyone who grew up on old-school buddy comedies will feel a pang of nostalgia for a time when all you really needed to make a hit was a couple of mismatched A-listers shooting things and dropping cheesy one-liners.

Dwayne Johnson is an FBI profiler specialising in fine art crime (don’t ask), forced to team up with the world’s second-best art thief (Ryan Reynolds) to stop the best, Gal Gadot, from stealing an ancient Egyptian egg. It’s a ridiculous set-up, but it’s all the film needs to pit the three stars against each other in Roman galleries, Russian prisons, Valencian bullrings and hidden Nazi bunkers amid a barrage of bullets, wise-cracks and car chases.

Red Notice
Dwayne Johnson works out his action chops in ‘Red Notice’. CREDIT: Netflix

Johnson punches, Reynolds banters and Gadot charms – all exactly as they’ve done before in a dozen other movies on their own. Brought together here for the first time, the chemistry isn’t exactly explosive, but it’s just about fiery enough to sell the jokes, and all do a great job of handling the film’s rapid-fire set pieces as the plot ties itself up in con-artist knots. A handful of standout scenes look about as expensive as they definitely were, and the film’s big jungle mine chase and snowy prison break serve up chaotic thrills.

Writer-director Rawson Marshall Thurber (Dodgeball) is clearly still in love with the movies of his youth, and he manages to fit practically all of them into one script. A late act pop-star cameo is completely unnecessary, but so is everything else in Red Notice – and that’s sort of the whole point. Filled with an excess of everything (including, weirdly, Paul Hollywood), and clearly terrified of taking even the smallest of risks, it’s a $200million blockbuster buffet aimed at anyone and everyone.

Obviously designed to kickstart a new franchise (otherwise what’s the point?), Red Notice has all the right ingredients – just not necessarily in the right order.

Details

  • Director: Rawson Marshall Thurber
  • Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Ryan Reynolds, Gal Gadot
  • Release date: November 12 (Netflix)
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