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The Stew Review: Netflix’s ‘Red Notice’ a generic waste of budget, star power

From left: Ryan Reynolds, Dwayne Johnson and Gal Gadot in a scene from Red Notice.
From left: Ryan Reynolds, Dwayne Johnson and Gal Gadot in a scene from Red Notice.(Netflix)
Published: Nov. 17, 2021 at 2:56 PM CST
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TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - Netflix’s latest original blockbuster offering, Red Notice, is the movie equivalent of a Canadian brand of grocery store items.

Let me explain.

There exists across our Northern border a brand of generic food items literally called “No Name.” As you can guess, no brand name is found on the products, which are stored and sold in stark yellow containers with the item name on the front in bold, lowercase type. A can of peas is just “peas,” etc. You know exactly what you’re getting, it’s affordable but it’s all as generic as can be.

If No Name was to put out Red Notice, it would come in a stark yellow DVD case with the words:

movie

with movie stars

I’ve seen technically worse movies. I’ve seen movies that were bigger bores or had worse actors or were more incompetently made. To its credit, Red Notice did get at least one genuine guffaw from me at one of its jokes. But a movie with this much money and marquee star power behind it shouldn’t be this boring, this rote, this cheap looking or this devoid of any real defining characteristics beyond “movie stars show up on the screen and do the generic thing they’re famous for.” (In this case: Ryan Reynolds delivers doe-eyed snark, The Rock is the muscle-y straight man and Gal Gadot is pretty and has a charming smile.)

As I write this review I’m having to look up names and plot details on IMDb because even though it’s only been two days since I watched it, the totality of this movie has slid off my brain like a raw egg off the side of a kitchen counter.

Not that it really matters what any character’s name is. No one involved seems to have any pretension about the fact that a dominant portion of the audience for this movie won’t care about names or truly interesting writing or direction. They see Reynolds, Gadot and Johsnson’s names and want to see the movie with movie stars. The production unfolds accordingly.

Reynolds is a master thief, Johnson is an FBI profiler who specializes in tracking down art thieves like Reynolds. Gadot plays The Bishop, a fellow criminal mastermind who pits Reynolds and Johnson against each other. They’re all three after the same thing: Two of three bejeweled eggs gifted by Marcus Antonius to Cleopatra.

As one might expect, circumstances eventually bring all three together and hijinx ensue, but for the most part this is the Reynolds and Johnson show. Not that it would ever be even half as good as the underrated 80s classic starring Robert De Niro and Charles Grodin, but I was hoping for a sort of Midnight Run-esque mismatched buddy comedy between Reynolds and The Rock. They both have good enough chops to pull off the animosity and clashing personalities that makes movies of that sort sing. But there’s zero rapport between any of these characters at any moment they share. It’s a movie where characters talk at rather than to each other, each line largely existing to either spout exposition, set up the next scene or provide grist for Reynolds to spout off another tired and entirely too complicated quip.

It doesn’t help that there’s never a sense of place to ground anything that happens. Sure, the film is technically a globe-trotting adventure but you’ll never convince me they actually shot anything other than second unit coverage for establishing or exterior shots at any of these locations. Sure, Marvel and Star Wars movies frequently have all-CGI sets but at least those movies have the excuse of being set in often wildly fantastical locations. But seriously, Netflix? You couldn’t pony up the cash to actually build something as simple as a train boxcar set or actually have your three marquee stars stand in front of The Louvre in Paris? The bull fighting ring scene (which, best I can tell, exists for no real reason as it has nothing to do with the plot and is never mentioned again) may be the single worst use of green screen CGI I’ve ever seen.

Perhaps director Marshall Rawson Thurber made this movie with a very specific demographic in mind: People who only watch Netflix while folding laundry. The plot requires no thought to follow. The characters are merely on-screen manifestations of previously known and established movie star personalities. Very little interesting happens. All of these things are ideal components for a movie intended to be consumed while concentration is largely focused elsewhere. Most of the humor is delivered verbally so there’s no missing a joke if you’re pairing socks and loud noises will alert the laundry folder to any moment where the bland, predictable action has resumed.

In short: Is this the worst movie I’ve ever seen? Almost certainly not. But even the worst movies I’ve seen have left something resembling a lasting impression. Red Notice is guilty of an even more egregious crime: Sparking abject ambivalence.

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