At this moment in movie history, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is one of those rare tent-pole, above-the-title Hollywood stars who can sell a film just by being in it. Even he has shed some of his “rock”-ness in the last few years, but here he is, in a Netflix production, headlining an explosive, multi-location action thriller along with Ryan Reynolds and Gal Gadot.
In Red Notice, directed, written and co-produced (along with Johnson) by Rawson Marshall Thurber, Johnson is John Hartley, a top FBI profiler. When Interpol issues a Red Notice—the highest level warrant to hunt and capture the world’s most wanted—Hartley is on the case.
His pursuit takes him to Bali, London, Cairo, Santiago and Russia, and he gets embroiled in a daring heist, forced to partner with the world’s greatest thief Nolan Booth (Ryan Reynolds) in order to find the world’s most wanted art thief, Sarah Black, known as The Bishop (Gal Gadot).
The three find themselves smack-dab in the middle of high-adrenaline chase sequences inside rocky tunnels, mid-air shootings, sword fights and prison breaks—all in order to track the high-stakes heist of Cleopatra’s golden eggs—and their clashing personalities and egos threaten to derail the two men from the task at hand.
Red Notice is an enjoyable high-octane action film, the kind that does not involve mutants, cyborgs or dead-pools. An old-world heist thriller, Red Notice also has familiar elements of the Dirty Rotten Scoundrels kind of camaraderie and banter between Hartley and Booth.
Johnson has been trying to shed “The Rock” sobriquet for some time now, and his character in this film even has him share some “daddy issues” with Booth, his partner in crime. Reynolds’ Booth has more shades to him to complement the physical indestructibility of Johnson.
A history nerd with a traumatic childhood bond with his father, an ambitious thief and a joke-a-minute, Booth is a fumbler but with cerebral solutions to impending dangers. Both men mock each other as they try to reign in the fiercest thief of them all, The Bishop. Gadot (Wonder Woman, 2017), as usual, is terrifically imposing and sleek in her moves.
The male-bonding and the chemistry between Johnson and Reynolds provides enough B-movie humour and suspense till the end. Will the two men ultimately stay loyal to each other?
Thurber, the director, uses all the tropes of a classic, extravagantly mounted action thriller with big-bang tricks such as wide screen whip pans and VFX technology, and keeps the pace rip-roaring.
All three protagonists are up to the job—and more, each coursing through a limited but distinctive trajectory in their roles. Reynolds is one of the most dependable, versatile actors in Hollywood, and he nails Booth with relish.
Johnson, with his shaven head, has a Buddha-like calm to go with the imposing bulk. And Gadot is every bit the action movie star, physically as well as when she lives up to the crucial demand of the role: channeling a signature I-can-outdo-the-men vantage point, a combination of glamour and agency.
That Hollywood is serious about diversity and inclusion in casting is more obvious than ever before, and the casting of Inspector Das (Ritu Arya), an indefatigable, dead-pan police officer of South Asian origin in hot pursuit of Heartly and Booth in a mammoth-scale thriller like this is testimony to that.What these stars make in Red Notice looks like the beginning of a franchise.
Critics watched the film on a big screen at an advanced screening. It seemed like the perfect projection for a film as pre-Marvel, as bereft of sub-text, as mindlessly entertaining and as big-scale as Red Notice. It streams on Netflix on Diwali. Netflix can’t entirely ignore the big Hollywood game, can it