REVIEW: 'Red Notice' Is Still Not The Blockbuster Netflix Has Been Looking For
Netflix has long been waiting for that elusive massive franchise movie they can build their streamer around. Not that they need the help, but it doesn’t hurt. Disney Plus built up their brand around their slate of Star Wars and Marvel Studios’ TV series like The Mandalorian and WandaVision. HBO Max did day and date releases of their movies in 2021, as well as the Snyder Cut. And Paramount Plus has its own slate of originals like Star Trek: Picard and others from that franchise.
While Netflix has a whole lot of original series that went on to earn the streaming giant plenty of acclaim, the cinematic franchise is still elusive. Netflix is now hoping the combined big box office talents of Dwayne Johnson, Ryan Reynolds and Gal Gadot will bring them that blockbuster in Red Notice.
Please note: the following will contain ample spoilers for Red Notice.
Red Notice Doesn’t Work Because Of A Weak Plot
Red Notice is all about a massive heist. Three people try to track down an ancient Egyptian relic, but for different reasons. Johnson plays an FBI agent, framed by Gal Gadot’s art thief. The same thief who also used Johnson’s character to capture her rival, another art thief played by Ryan Reynolds. Johnson and Reynolds’ characters team up to take down Gadot, while also proving the FBI agent’s innocence.
Everything comes together very conveniently, without any real dramatic motivations that make sense. The reluctant, but obviously obligatory team-up happens all too fast. The continued friendship makes no sense, and the twist ending, even less so. The actors are all great though. The comedy mostly comes from Reynolds, while Gadot chews the scenery in a fun way. The Rock provides his own brand of stoic, muscular straight man vibes. And it’s their combined efforts that make the movie somewhat fun.
There are many moments of Red Notice that feel like they’re foregone conclusions, instead of a moment that audiences can respond to and engage with
The Streamer’s Previous Efforts At a Franchise
Previously, Netflix tried multiple times to build a franchise. But their efforts were less than successful. They’ve had many original series take off, like Stranger Things, The Witcher, and others of various genres. But the movies have been lacking. The biggest such blockbuster was potentially Charlize Theron’s The Old Guard, but the development of a sequel is still slow going, despite its success. Other attempts include the Will Smith and Joel Edgerton film Bright, which sank without a trace. And another was Ryan Reynolds’ own 6 Underground, which was more of a nonsensical supercut of even less coherent explosions and other special effects strung around random performance in place of an actual story.
Red Notice, by comparison, is not that bad. It’s honestly a fun popcorn movie that’s got a lot going for it. Most of those high points are the comedy dynamic between Reynolds and Johnson. Reynold’s annoying nature coupled with Johnson’s tough-guy act works for great comedic gold. The rest of it is a lot less appealing.
How Red Notice Misses The Mark
Netflix’s attempts at building a franchise makes a lot in Red Notice feel—less than established. Spoiler’s upcoming for Red Notice going forward. There are many moments of Red Notice that feel like they’re foregone conclusions, instead of a moment that audiences can respond to and engage with. For example, the big twist in the climax. The majority of the movie, Reynolds and Johnson are working together against Gadot. But in the third act, we learn that Johnson was working with Gadot the entire time, conning Reynolds to find the last treasure.
Most of those high points are the comedy dynamic between Reynolds and Johnson. Reynold’s annoying nature coupled with Johnson’s tough-guy act works for great comedic gold. The rest of it is a lot less appealing.
Putting aside how ineffective the moment was, the movie doesn’t really give the audience time to take it in. We immediately move to jokes, and then they leave Reynolds high and dry and, seemingly, get away with it. But the movie continues, obviously, with yet another twist ending. Which again, doesn’t have the impact they probably intended.
Reynolds shows up to break up the party and inform Johnson and Gadot that he gave them up to the cops, made them lose all their money, and threatens their arrest at any minute unless they join him in yet another job. Which they promptly agree to. The final shot is the 3 embarking on another heist, as the movie ends, promising us a sequel. Most likely. No time to react to the reveal, just a rush to move on to the next plot point.
Franchise Building Without The Effort
It’s this attempt to chase a franchise that is really the issue here. Because this end goal was telegraphed for a while in the movie. The three major stars will obviously team up in the end. Which made all the events leading up to it feel, empty and unnecessary. There were no real stakes.
On its own, Red Notice could have rivaled other fun family-friendly action entertainers like Tower Heist or even the recent Army Of Thieves from Netflix. But the pressure of big stars, a big budget (at $200 million it's Netflix largest ever), big premieres and all the fanfare that comes with it, seemingly comes at the expense of a good story.
Red Notice premieres on Netflix on November 12.
What did you think of Reynolds and Johnson’s chemistry in Red Notice? Let me know in the comments below.