The Rock twists, turns and cracks a few eggs

Netflix's latest action-comedy Red Notice has a couple of things going for it. A-listers Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, Ryan Reynolds and Gal Gadot, and a US$200 million (6.6 billion baht) budget. Where it falls flat is in its attempt at keeping it original.

Ryan Reynolds, Dwayne Johnson and Gal Gadot in Red Notice. (Photo Courtesy of Netflix © 2021)

This slick and absolutely vapid star vehicle, with more twists and turns than a pretzel, tests the algorithms and limits of tentpole moviemaking on streaming screens.

Shot in multiple countries, Red Notice promises the world but doesn't quite hit the mark in its endeavours; banking far too heavily on three of Hollywood's best, leading to what could probably be the movie's top undoing.

Like the Indiana Jones franchise, Red Notice is propelled by the mythology of ancient artefacts and the greed they attract.

Johnson plays John Hartley, an FBI profiler who locks up notorious art thief Nolan Booth (Reynolds) only to end up framed for the same crime and thrown in a prison cell with Booth. Both men find out to their chagrin that they have been played by the Bishop (Gal Gadot), a femme fatale art thief hell-bent on stealing all three of Cleopatra's mythic golden eggs to sell on the black market.

According to this movie's legend, over 2,000 years ago Roman general Mark Antony gifted his lover, the Egyptian queen Cleopatra, with these golden eggs. After their suicide pack, the three eggs were dispersed. One becomes an exhibit at Museo Nazionale. Another is with a private collector. The third has been lost for centuries.

The audience is taken on a cat-and-mouse game that leads the characters to exotic and breathtaking locations like Bali, Rome and Argentina, though these backdrops are not explored by the characters or even shown much on-screen beyond title cards announcing the destination. With such a whopping movie budget and star cast to work with, one would have imagined original stories for their characters, but instead, have to deal with all of them suffering from father issues.

Hartley and Booth turn out to have similarly dysfunctional childhoods, stemming from deadbeat fathers. However, instead of using this to add substance to the character, what we are left with are long-winded summaries of their lives that are so banal, they don't provide any emotional branches for the audience to grasp.

Even scenes that are meant to be funny lose their impact on the audience with the unlikely pair of Hartley and Booth winding up tethered by a common aim of finding the golden eggs.

As they come after the ruthless Bishop, who takes the guise of a below-average rendered copy of a femme fatale, their dubious partnership shreds under a script scattered with dreadful dialogue that leaves the audience unimpressed. One cannot help feel the script copies from a compilation of cinematic references to assemble the movie's events. Moments of deja vu pop up from the pair's meetings and interactions with Bishop while steering clear of a pursuing Interpol agent, Inspector Das (Ritu Arya), for instance.

A masquerade party scene with a tête-à-tête on the dance floor between Hartley and Bishop evokes the same sensual energy dynamics at play in the flick True Lies. Other references include movies such as The Gladiator, Raiders Of The Lost Ark and so forth.

Red Notice appears to have all the right ingredients for a franchise-ready adventure, yet something's notably off when the pieces are mixed together, which makes it a real downer.

Reynolds and The Rock had zero chemistry in their scenes together, while Gadot and The Rock, who are supposed to have simmering sexual chemistry, seem anything but comfortable in each other's presence.

Red Notice is OK to pass time. For one, it does have its moments of redemption, which include no scenes of extreme bloodshed and violence and a mixture of action and comedy where you can have a good laugh.

My hope is that if there is a sequel to this there will be a concentrated effort to make it more original.

  • Red Notice
  • Starring Dwayne Johnson, Ryan Reynolds, Gal Gadot
  • Directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber
  • Now streaming on Netflix
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