Movie Review: Red Notice (2021)

TL;DR – art heist flick with plenty of sparkle but not much substance.

Review (warning: spoilers)

Where to start? So a ‘red notice’ is issued by Interpol to law enforcement around the world of a criminal or fugitive. When said criminal seeks to evade justice in one country by fleeing to another country, Interpol can issue a ‘red notice’ requesting law enforcement to provisionally arrest that criminal pending extradition.

International art thief, Nolan Booth (Ryan Reynolds), is seeking to be the most wanted art thief in the world. The reason he seeks to be number one on Interpol’s list is because of daddy issues, but this is background filler that is a lame excuse for the life he has chosen (not at all believable, so don’t even bother).

Seeking to capture Nolan is FBI criminal profiler, John Hartley (Dwayne Johnson) who is assisting Interpol though has not been granted any jurisdiction or powers outside the United States. Interpol has somehow bought into Hartley’s credentials and doesn’t do any background check on him (cue turning off one’s brain at the absence of logic). Hartley is a criminal profiler but is a brick house of an agent (because it’s Dwayne Johnson) and has undercover and thieving skills (yes, he can pick pocket like a pro… suspicious much?) that rival Booth and thus makes no sense and is even less believable. It makes sense at the end because of the twist, but if you question initial scenes, you will see the twist coming.

Last but not least, we have Sarah Black a.k.a. “The Bishop” (Gal Gadot), the current number one art thief in the world. She always appears on the scene without explanation and with an ease that makes me think she has superhuman powers (or at least the power to wander into places invisible without anyone noticing). Given this is Gal Gadot we are talking about, how she manages this is the least believable. But we shouldn’t question this. After all she is the number one art thief in the world.

The film opens with a history lesson about three jewelled eggs gifted to Cleopatra by Marc Antony. These priceless artefacts are now worth a fortune. One is held in a museum in Rome, another is owned by an infamous arms dealer, and the third has never been recovered.

Booth steals the first egg, successfully escapes, returns to his hideout in Bali only to discover Hartley and Interpol are waiting, and gets arrested. The egg is secured briefly only to be swapped out by Black disguised as an Interpol agent. Framed by Black, Hartley becomes the prime suspect and winds up in prison with Booth. The pair are then confronted by Black who reveals that she knows that Booth has uncovered the location of the third egg. She offers Booth a cut of ten percent if he tells her where the third egg is. Booth declines her offer.

After Black’s departure, Hartley convinces Booth to work together to capture Black. The incentive for Booth being 1) to bust out of prison, 2) to acquire the eggs, and 3) to usurp Black as the number one art thief in the world. Hartley’s motive is simply to clear his name and arrest both Booth and Black in the act.

There are so many plot holes in this story that I don’t know where to begin. For starters, how does Hartley know Booth’s hideout is in Bali and its exact location? The explanation is that Hartley’s profile skills allowed him to figure this out. It’s a throw away one liner that is farcical. Next, how is Black able to masquerade as an Interpol agent? Surely, Interpol would know the exact number of people on this mission to Bali, and who each agent is that has been assigned to retrieve the first egg and arrest Booth. Next, how does Black know that Booth has knowledge of where the third egg is located? She has a voice recording of Booth saying he knows, but how she came to have this recording? Who knows?

The above is a sample of the gaps that require you to suspend all belief. At least Ocean’s Eleven explained how they were going to rob the casino. There is no attempt to provide clever explanation in Red Notice.

This film is all about the interactions between the three main leads and action sequences. Admittedly the camerawork on the action is well done, and while Ryan Reynolds is now typecast in his character (i.e. guy with smart mouth) along with Dwayne John who is also typecast in his character (i.e. guy who kicks ass), the banter between the pair does bring out a chuckle here and there. Gal Gadot’s character is meant to be the foil between the two, manipulating the strings to achieve her own goals.

It is not so much a heist flick as it is a wannabe “Indiana Jones” adventure (even at one point, Booth starts whistling the theme song from the Indiana Jones movies) as the trio travel around the world to acquire the three eggs. The final twist leaving the film open for a sequel. I don’t think the film is trying too hard to be clever, which is a good thing. This is not Money Heist or seeks to create a massive reveal like The Usual Suspects. It’s an action comedy where a good-looking cast gets to do good-looking action. Accept that and you’ll enjoy the movie.

5 out of 10

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