Every now and then you encounter a film that makes you think “ah, it’s one of those films…”; it hits like a tidal wave of realization, usually at the 5 minute mark into the story; the kind of film that forces out a sigh of complacency because you already know what you’re about to spend your next 2 hours watching. To put it bluntly, Red Notice is the film equivalent of hiring a star athlete to sell your potato chips during the commercial breaks of the superbowl. It’s a commercial film and like anything that’s commercial, if you plant a familiar face on the cover and make it look snazzy, you’re at the very least guaranteed some success, even if the potato chips you’re selling taste like cardboard.
Yes, Red Notice is cardboard; it’s a piece of content designed to entertain the widest audience it can; and I use the word “content” very intently here, because, while I think it’s unfair to diminish films that I didn’t enjoy down to simple terms like “content” and “theme parks“, it’s also not an entirely inaccurate descriptor. Especially when you observe the decisions its creators made upon making the film. Now, what are these decisions, might you ask? Well, three things really.
The first is that Red Notice is what the guys and gals in film-enthusiast circles call “cliche as formulaic as hell”, not very eloquent, I know. The second is that Red Notice has no qualms using industry proven actors that are typically hired to juice as much cash-flow as humanly possible. The third is that Red Notice is safe, by every metric. It’s not overly crude or violent, nor is it ambitious, complex, or even remotely saucy. It’s wholly and entirely “up-to-spec” in increasing its chances of mainstream success; and success, it achieved. Now, there’s nothing wrong with a film that was purpose-made to simply be entertaining, however, there is a little part of me that shrivels and squirms knowing that this flick got a larger budget than Dune (2021).
Would I say Red Notice is an entertaining film? Well, I felt more dazed than engaged. You see, stomaching more than 20 minutes of Ryan Reynolds blurting out sarcastic lines about spooning the Rock is a sure way to give me both a migraine and serious dizziness. Reynolds has reached a level of sameiness that I believe is unmatched in the industry. I also couldn’t tell you how well or poorly Dwayne Johnson performed in this film because I believe my brain is so attuned to his presence in blockbuster films that he simply blurs into the backdrop of any given scene. As for Gal Gadot, she at least stood out in that this isn’t her typical role. With all that aside, on some level, yes, this flick is a little bit engaging; this film was running on a tried and true formula after all.
Red Notice has a hefty $200 million budget to its name; it’s just a shame that barely any of it was spent on the set pieces or action sequences. Much of the action sequences are rather underwhelming and just feels more of the same when watching movies of this kind. For most of the action sequences it attempts to put the viewer into the action by placing the camera inside vehicles or even hand-held during fighting scenes, however this does not accomplish the vision imagined as the choreography and framing does nothing for action sequences. Red Notice does boast a certain crimson element to its visual aesthetic with vibrant red costuming and glowing red lighting which gives the film a more colourful look when it’s not using its basic dark or orange haze colour grading.
During the film we are transported from location to location as we visit Rome, Bali, London, Valencia, Argentina and even Egypt. With this many locations you would feel each location would have its own look or feel to it, however it all comes off as bland and rather unoriginal. For example the jungle sequence during Argentina just feels as if I am watching the next Jumanji film. Steve Jablonsky composes the score for Red Notice and has clearly taken some inspiration from Mission Impossible and a splash of Now You See Me. It felt quite refreshing to have a fitting suite for the film but unfortunately it is masked through the usage of excessive contemporary music. Jablonsky’s efforts here are not rewarded as the film never lets the music settle in which prohibits it from taking any effect on the viewer.
Like an undetectable master thief, Red Notice slips in and out entirely unnoticed; leaving behind no odour or residue to remember it by. The only thing of value it steals? Your time.