By Benjamin Konuch
I couldn’t wait to see Red Notice.
When I first heard it announced and learned what kind of movie it was, my excitement was through the roof. I utterly adore the action comedy genre, with movies such as “Red” and “Knight & Day” being family favorites. Hearing that Netflix was going to be making an original movie in that style, starring Dwayne Johnson, Ryan Renolds, and Gal Gadot, my excitement skyrocketed. Here were three of Hollywood’s biggest stars in the genre that I adore, financed by one of the biggest streaming companies to ever exist. But when I saw the early reviews and how critics were seemingly tearing into “Red Notice”, that excitement faltered a bit. Yet, when I watched the film I found myself thinking that the critics misunderstood the point of it. “Red Notice” isn’t a spectacular film, but it’s a good one. It’s funny, absurd, and enjoyable to watch, with a great cast that are very obviously enjoying themselves. It doesn’t have to be anything spectacular, it just has to be entertaining, and “Red Notice” is nothing if not entertaining.
Dwayne Johnson’s John Hartley is the embodiment – and parody – of every action hero
The plot follows John Hartley (Dwayne Johnson), an FBI criminal profiler who is tipped off that international art thief Nolan Booth (Ryan Renolds) is about to steal a priceless artifact. While he seemingly fumbles the case at first, Hartley tracks Booth down and makes a triumphant arrest with the help of an information dealer known as the Bishop (Gal Gadot). However, in “Red Notice” appearances can be deceiving, and the film reveals that the Bishop set Hartley and Booth both up in order to steal the artifact for herself. Framing Hartley for the crime, the Bishop’s plan results in Hartley and Booth being held in the same prison, where they must reluctantly work together to escape and foil the Bishop’s plans. Booth wants her in prison so he can steal what she’s after and reclaim the title of “World’s No. 1 Art Thief”, and Hartley wants her caught to clear his name and to apprehend the scheming criminal.
With this setup, the movie evolves into a series of absurd escapes, bumbling heists, and hilarious (and also unexpected) twists. While the jokes don’t always land, enough of them did to make the whole movie something fun, even if I wasn’t laughing at all the parts the filmmakers wanted me to laugh at. The sharp writing and directing of Rawson Marshall Thurber, who’s worked with Dwayne Johnson on previous projects such as “Skyscraper” and “Central Intelligence”, properly utilizes his cast and lets them play off each other. The main source of comedy from the film comes from the ridiculous (and begrudging) buddy-cop dynamic between Reynolds and Johnson. Their energy together is great, as Reynolds plays Booth as a sarcastic, self-aware criminal genius who takes nothing seriously, and Johnson plays Hartley with an over-the-top level of seriousness and stupidity while being almost a caricature of the typical “action hero”. Gal Gadot’s Bishop is also the cause of a few good jokes, but tends to mainly be the catalyst of driving the plot forward. I would have enjoyed a little more screen time with her character to allow her the same amount of comedy that Reynolds and Johnson give, but as a comedic antagonist, she does just fine.
Booth and Hartley play as opposites to each other, and form a perfect unlikely duo
Now while I did enjoy much of this film, it isn’t perfect by any means. As previously mentioned, some jokes don’t land and a few are little more than unnecessarily crass innuendos. The plot moves quickly, almost at the expense of speeding through certain scenes, while others drag on for a bit too long. There was one specific time where the inherent comedic absurdity reached a little too far and became really ridiculous.
Despite all these little flaws, “Red Notice” is still a fun movie. Unfortunately for Netflix, critics don’t seem to care about that fun. A quick scan of the Rotten Tomatoes critics reviews for the film (which is currently at a low 39% score while its audience score is in the 90’s) call “Red Notice” terms such as “empty”, “dull” “overdone”, and “unnecessary”. While many complaints that critics have said could have value to them, such as the film being a rehash of previous ideas or tropes, it doesn’t really matter. Some films are meant to be original and bold and beautiful, but there are also films that aren’t meant for anything lofty, films that don’t try to reinvent the wheel but instead try to make sure they can make the best version of the wheel that they can make.
“Red Notice” isn’t original or fresh, but it was fun, and that’s what it needed to be. In a world with so many movies being released a year, too many are trying to be the next best thing. I’d much rather have a movie that’s genuinely fun to watch than a movie that shoots for the stars and doesn’t even make it past the roof.
I give “Red Notice” a 7.5/10.
“Red Notice” is currently streaming on Netflix and showing in limited theaters.
Ben Konuch is a freshman strategic communications student and an A&E writer for Cedars. He enjoys getting sucked into good stories, playing video games and failing horribly at wallyball with his friends.