Early in Netflix’s globe-trotting romp Red Notice, a priceless artifact is revealed to be a clever fake by the application of a fizzy drink. You won’t need sugary beverages to catch writer/director Rawson Marshall Thurber’s comedy-thriller out, because it’s exactly what it seems to be: a starry and undemanding caper, with Dwayne Johnson, Ryan Reynolds, and Gal Gadot sticking like fingerprints to character type.
Reynolds plays master art thief Nolan Booth, whom we first encounter pursued by Johnson’s FBI profiler John Hartley for stealing said artifact. Various twists, turns, surprise incarcerations, and quips about Johnson’s physique later, Booth and Hartley reluctantly unite to best the Bishop (Gadot), the super-thief who routinely outwits them. Will these relative rookies-in-crime manage to make their moves before the Bishop calls checkmate?
In a livelier outing than his last Johnson team-up, the cumbersome Skyscraper, Thurber kicks proceedings off with a frisky foot chase and barely lets up. Clearly in receipt of the no-dawdling memo, Reynolds matches the pace with volleys of on-brand meta-gags, mostly aimed at Johnson (“You’re like a well-dressed wall”). Reveling in the banter and pop-culture nods, Reynolds gives a sure impression of someone making everything up on the hoof, like Deadpool with fewer strap-on moments. (Though he does get a gag about “mouth-sexing a goat”.)
With an under-stretched Gadot cast to be unbeatable, no more, you know broadly what you’re getting here. An odd-couple buddy movie where Gadot plays the rogue-ish third element, Red Notice functions best when the cast lean gamely into the double-crosses and low-flying banter, albeit less successfully with some shoehorned-in ‘Daddy issues’ subtexts.
Thurbar also strains to crowbar in WW2 references for an overly derivative end-stretch, which surrenders to Indiana Jones’ influence a little too readily. Even if there are worse homages to make in a film designed to match Netflix’s investment with audience-friendly returns, Johnson hardly needs to ‘do an Indy’ again so soon after Jungle Cruise.
We hardly needed a certain crowd-pleasing (shivers-inducing, more like...) pop-star cameo, either, though Thurber otherwise summons enough light-fingered entertainment from his leads to ensure we don’t mind being taken for a ride. “I’m not so big on ‘forget-ness’,” says Booth at one point, after offering his forgiveness to a competitor. If you’ve got more time for forgettable fun, Red Notice scrubs up OK.
Red Notice is available to watch on Netflix from November 19. For more, check out the best Netflix movies streaming right now.