Reel Review - Red Notice (2021)
Somewhere between Ocean’s and Indiana Jones, you’ll find Red Notice. While that sounds like it would be a good marriage on paper, Red Notice borrows from the low-water mark for both of those franchises. It’s about as intriguing as Ocean’s 8 and as exciting as The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.
Master art thief Nolan Booth (Ryan Reynolds) teams up with FBI agent John Hartley (Dwayne Johnson) to pull off a high-stakes heist. There’s just one question: can they beat the mysterious Bishop (Gal Gadot) to the prize?
For all of its twists and turns, the most impressive heist in Red Notice is how writer and director Rawson Marshall Thurber managed to disappear a $200million production budget. Seriously… where did he spend all of that money?
It’s safe to assume that somewhere around half of that obscene price tag went towards paying the salaries for the film’s three big stars, Dwayne Johnson, Ryan Reynolds and Gal Gadot. Seeing as though that trio is just about the only enjoyable aspect of the movie, it’s fair that they should account for a sizeable portion of the budget.
Johnson, for his part, does his job—i.e., attract eyeballs to screens for being Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. No fault there. Reynolds was, as Reynolds has become, Deadpool with or without the mask. Again, no fault there. Audiences obviously haven’t tired of his patented sense of fourth wall breaking, meta humour. And Gal Gadot was, as Gal Gadot has become, a “looks-good-in-a-dress-while-beating-up-bad-guys” female action lead. In other words, it was an easy outing for all three stars—they probably had more fun making it than audiences will have had watching it.
The rest of the $200million, Thurber must have spent filming on location in Italy and keeping up with the theatre of pandemic control measures… as if Hollywood directors are now supposed to be public health agents.
In any event, Red Notice clearly made some good use of its budget beyond paying its stars and jetting them off to Italy. The movie is considerably prettier than it is purposeful. Cinematographer Markus Förderer and visual effects supervisor Richard R. Hoover upped the ante for Netflix with respect to production quality for action flicks. There aren’t any PS3-looking graphics in Red Notice—we’re looking at you Extraction. And Förderer clearly paid more attention to every frame than did Tami Reiker and Barry Ackroyd in The Old Guard.
To its credit—and to Thurber’s credit—Red Notice was a massive success for Netflix. It had the biggest Netflix debut to date, as measured by the number of total streaming hours. And it followed up its big debut with successive weeks of chart-topping and record-breaking streaming numbers. Doubtlessly, the appeal for audiences was all about the film’s three big stars—there just isn’t anything else that compelling about the movie.
Still, the success of Red Notice brings the idea of “commercial success” in the age of streaming to the fore. What the streaming numbers don’t capture is that everyone probably had Red Notice on in the background as they played Candy Crush on their phone. There just isn’t any way—yet—for streaming services to distinguish between “quality” of streaming hours. As such, audiences are likely to get more star-studded schtick-y action/comedies from streaming services even if they have the movie on in the background while they’re making dinner. Nevertheless, Thurber and Netflix should be pleased with the film’s commercial success.
Of course, Thurber set up the ending for a sequel—every single Netflix action flick has done this and please, God, someone tell them to stop. Given the success of Red Notice, Netflix will probably foot the $400million price tag (just guessing) for the second film and audiences will have another big-budget spectacle to “watch” while they vacuum their homes. Don’t say I didn’t warn… you’ve been put on “notice”.
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