Knowing how a film would end more often than not dissuades one from watching it. Even worse, you know all the twists the plotline has to offer. And the worst of all, you can see a disappointing sequel coming from a mile away the moment Johnson and Reynolds “hatch a plan”. But can you resist Dwayne Johnson, Gal Gadot, and Ryan Reynolds together, twice? I bet not. Netflix’s masterstroke in pulling the film from the theatres and onto our rectangular screens has seen ‘Red Notice’ already trend in the Top 10.
The film is essentially a jugular – poor one at that – between comedy, action, and the heist genres. The messy execution does not take too long before becoming apparent, although not without its fair share of laughs along the way. It has all the trappings of a sureshot blockbuster – an A-list cast, exotic locations, a conditioned filmmaker, and a monstrous budget, but tragically, sans a nuanced script that would have taken the film to the next level.
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One cannot reasonably go into a film like ‘Red Notice’ expecting the above blended with astute screenwriting. Unless that is, its superior genre peers have shown it how it is done. Dwayne Johnson, as Special Agent John Hartley, makes a suave entrance along with Inspector Das (Ritu Arya) of the INTERPOL to protect Cleopatra’s famous egg from getting stolen. By this time, you would already have guessed what happens next: it is already stolen.
The suspected thief (Reynolds as Nolan), instead of promptly running away after stealing it, stays to show off. And guess what? He gets caught. But then he wriggles his way out of the situation and escapes. When he reaches his house, guess what he finds: Hartley chilling on his sofa. Das and her croons surround him and arrest him, as Hartley poetically explains the why behind Nolan’s actions. An unknown exchanges the original egg with a fake, and sets up Hartley for the fall.
An escape from a Russian prison, staged by Hartley and Nolan, with shocking ease, also reveals the unknown’s identity: the Bishop (Gadot), another renowned art thief. The two and the Bishop jostle for the other two eggs, which they will exchange for the fortune of a lifetime with an Egyptian businessman. There are a few more location changes, completing the brochure for your next foreign trip. The eggs change several hands, so does the loyalty of savage thieves, which is not too hard to guess. And then the movie finally ends.
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‘Red Notice’ seems quite content for most parts to fuel itself based on the star power of its superstars. The narrative lacks the ambition to match the effort put in by the leads, who try their best to steer a delirious ship. Writers probably thought it best to use Reynolds’ comic timing to embellish scenes instead of objectively giving structure to the story and indent strong characterization.
After watching the film, you wonder really what would have happened if this cast was handed to someone like Guy Ritchie. His ‘The Man From U.N.C.L.E’ isn’t too differentiated from ‘Red Notice’ in terms of grandeur, action, and casting is still every bit superior. Rawson Thurber, a previous collaborator of Johnson on multiple occasions, uses the same scope for this project, which eventually kills any chance of it taking off. The enormous wealth of star power at his helm is grossly underutilized but still has legs to pull the film through.
The crisis for ‘Red Notice’ starts from the setup itself. The way to build on the familiar premise is always hard, as innovation becomes a desperate resort. The formulaic approach it employs will always attract masses like flies on candy but will not prevent it from escaping the critical cinephile. Reynolds does most of the heavy lifting in the acting department. Although his job is made easier by the presence of Johnson and Gadot, there is no story without him. You look forward to seeing more of him with every passing second. Even his charisma, after a point, loses steam. The euphoria wears off as it becomes clear that the execution repeats itself.
Despite the watered-down expectations, ‘Red Notice’s end-product is disappointing. It is a decent way to blow off stress with your family but nothing more than that. It has nothing new to say, or provide in terms of cinematic tropes that we have grown bored of. The three leads are the film and there is nothing additive about it from a value perspective.