Genre: Action Comedy and Heist Running Time: 1 hr. 57 min.
Release Date: November 12th, 2021 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Director: Rawson Marshall Thurber Actors: Dwayne Johnson, Ryan Reynolds, Gal Gadot, Ritu Arya, Chris Diamantopoulos, Ivan Mbakop
lthough it was thought for centuries to be a mere myth, legendary stories were told of Antony gifting three bejeweled eggs to Cleopatra. In 1907, a local farmer unearthed two of the ancient artifacts in Egypt, one of which was eventually put on display in Rome, while the other ended up in a private collection. The third egg, however, was never located, leaving many to wonder if it would ever be reunited with its brethren.
In present day, notorious, lifelong art thief (second-best in the world, purportedly) Nolan Booth (Ryan Reynolds), wanted in 18 countries, plots to steal the first of Cleopatra’s eggs from a Roman museum, while FBI Special Agent John Hartley (Dwayne Johnson), a profiler, and goofily inept INTERPOL Inspector Urvashi Das (Ritu Arya) attempt to foil the heist. With a few tussles, a handful of chases, and mild destruction, the fancy golden orb is successfully purloined, safely ferried back to Booth’s beachside abode in Bali. Unfortunately for the master robber, a boogeyman informant – and fellow art thief – known only as the Bishop (Gal Gadot) has given the authorities all the tips necessary to nab the crook, allowing the Bishop to steal the priceless piece for herself. On top of that, she arranges a frame-up, resulting in Hartley landing in a maximum security prison in Russia – with Booth as his bunkmate.
“Shut up and give me the bag before I shoot you in the mouth.” The premise is largely uninspired and the scenarios are never more than ludicrously insincere. Not once is anyone in any believable danger. Although that makes every action set piece and shootout completely free of suspense, at least it allows the primary cops and crooks to easily shift into a neutral zone where crimes and consequences are irrelevant and everyone can remain generally likable (or team up for no reason whatsoever, making the use of three main characters somewhat redundant). At the same time, however, it also mutes the severity; it’s painfully obvious at every turn that this is a PG-13 film, since bullets don’t prompt spilt blood and a murderous international arms dealer called Sotto Voce (Chris Diamantopoulos) opts to strangle his victims rather than something more gruesome. Even a later torture scene is designed to be humorous rather than frightening. It’s not that this movie needs more violence; it’s that it requires a modicum of realism so that its sense of adventure isn’t utterly vacant.
The picture’s main appeal is meant to be the combination of action and comedy, with Reynolds spouting nonstop jokes, poking fun at everyone and everything, neutering the tension of a prison fight or a helicopter escape from a rocket-launching soldier. A jab here and there is effective, but his ceaseless foolishness quickly grows wearisome; when each new, elaborate burglary situation or near-death scenario feels more like “Get Smart” than “Mission: Impossible,” embracing cartoonish daredevilry with not so much as a scratch, it’s difficult to care about successes or failures. Not a single moment has any real gravity.
“Red Notice” proceeds to follow a pattern like an absurd “The Defiant Ones” merged with a slapstick Indiana Jones knock-off (like “National Treasure”) and the very worst parts of “Sherlock Holmes” (2009), embellished with nonsensically convenient solutions to ridiculously laborious tasks. On numerous occasions, heavily-armed men in balaclavas shuffle into a room to surround a main character; the Bishop and other roles tend to materialize with absolutely no explanation, even after vaults and bunkers and other locales are described as having limited entrances; and location changes occur suddenly with unnecessary information about hours passed, additionally providing no suggestion as to traveling capabilities (like government super-spies, resources are apparently limitless). Even technical components are massively unconvincing, ranging from Gadot’s fight scene, edited to avoid showing authentic combat; to an idiotic collection of drone shots, alternated with rapid cuts to heighten immediacy; to pointless CG animals and vehicles; to self-aware references that practically break the fourth wall. This is the kind of transient, cookie-cutter comic adventure likely to be viewed with half-a-smile and half-a-grimace throughout its entire runtime.
– Mike Massie