Red Notice Review: Dwayne Johnson Leads Formulaic Fun

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The key to enjoying Red Notice is not to worry about such things. A car starts up after being in cold storage for 70 years? No problem! Booth flies a helicopter even after realizing all the controls are in Russian? Fine! Suspension of disbelief is par for the course in any Thurber film and almost all movies starring Johnson, and Deadpool fans almost expect Reynolds to break the fourth wall these days. This movie counts on the audience recognizing the narrative form and the actors, including Gadot and her signature Wonder Woman ability to kick serious ass.

But while the audience will leave satisfied with the twists and turns of Red Notice, they will learn almost nothing about its characters. Hartley and Booth bond as they discuss their overbearing fathers and how their childhood trauma informed their career choices, but that’s the only development any character really receives. Even those details seem to be pulled from the psychological consultant’s handbook employed by hundreds of modern action movies. Johnson and Reynolds make a fun pairing, but the odd couple vibe doesn’t measure up to that of others, including the one between Johnson and Kevin Hart in Central Intelligence.

The Bishop is an even more generic femme fatale, despite Gadot’s electric presence onscreen. Without even the cursory family history given to the other leads, the elite thief is forced to follow along behind the men, entrapping them in a continuous game of cat and mouse and occasionally joining them against a common law enforcement enemy. Red Notice tries to explain this away with a big reveal at the end of the film, but it’s too little too late for character development purposes. Again: tons of fun, but not particularly deep.

One thing Red Notice has that Central Intelligence and Skyscraper didn’t, however, is the possibility for a sequel. While Thurber has gone on record that his earlier Johnson vehicles are one-and-done films, the ending of this openly suggests that since the reluctant partnerships in this particular heist worked out so well, there might be opportunities for future collaboration. While the pandemic delayed this 2020 production and limited its theatrical release, its performance on Netflix as the streaming network’s biggest budget production ever will determine its fate and ultimately that of any sequel.

Beyond any behind-the-scenes plans, however, Red Notice stands alone as a fun action adventure film with writing that manages to feel fresh even though it’s as familiar as an old favorite blanket. Its characters may be cookie-cutter, but the charisma of Johnson, Reynolds, and Gadot fairly oozes off the screen, making us check our brains at the door and enjoy the popcorn fun of this action-filled romp.

Red Notice premieres in limited theaters on Nov. 5 and on Netflix Nov. 12.

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