Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Red Notice


According to historical records, Cleopatra received three bejeweled golden eggs from her lover Mark Anthony as gifts. Two have been excavated so far: one ending up in a museum in Rome; the other, in the hands of a private collector. The third has never been found. In 2021, FBI agent John Hartley (Dwayne Johnson) arrives in Italy to preempt a heist involving the golden egg housed at Castel Sant’Angelo. However, his efforts are in vain as number one international art thief Nolan Booth (Ryan Reynolds) gets his hands on it first. Good guy pursues bad guy all the way to Bali but in a strange twist of fate, both end up in a Russian prison as they are set up by Sarah Black (Gal Gadot), aka The Bishop, who now rises from second to best international art thief as she dethrones Booth. An unlikely partnership is born between the two men as Hartley attempts to clear his name while Booth tries to regain his fame.

Gadot does not really have that wide an acting range, does she? I mean, don’t hate on me, and don’t get me wrong. For the purposes of cinema as entertainment, what she currently offers more than suffices. However, a decade or two from now when she cannot bank on the smothering siren image anymore, what happens then? This is just me wondering whether she has something more hidden up her sleeve that she would like to surprise us with. Perhaps doing an indie flick or hardcore drama would do the trick.

But yeah, she is entertaining here, despite her role seemingly not demanding much. The action scenes are minimal and probably not as exhausting as her Wonder Woman gig. Even then, we do get some lit sequences like that three-way fight in Valencia. Lest we forget, none of these three is a stranger to the action genre. It is nice to see them have a go at kicking each other’s ass. They seem to be having so much fun doing so.

As for chemistry, it is Johnson and Reynolds who shine as partners. Buddy comedy. The two bros need to either have that chemistry or their banters fall flat. Luckily, the two guys have it. The rivalry angle between Black and Booth is enjoyable to watch but somehow seems lacking. The romance angle between Hartley and Black feels contrived and weird. As a trio, though, they all have the rapport, and perhaps that is what the director and writers of the two confirmed sequels will be exploiting for entertainment’s sake.

As for the formula, it’s just too predictable. This is basically an Egyptian version of Jungle Cruise, which was a South American version of The Mummy. Wow, Hollywood is going full circle here. Focus on a game changer relic from the past in your storyline. Toss in some people wanting to steal it. Make them fight each other for it. Insert plot twist here. In the end, it’s all a happy ending after all. It doesn’t help that Dwayne Johnson is also here and the final act is set in a South American jungle. Too soon and too familiar. I was half-expecting Emily Blunt to suddenly appear out of nowhere. Change the formula a bit, Hollywood. We’re starting to notice.

But perhaps Red Notice’s edge is some elements of the heist subgenre being incorporated into its storyline. After all, you have thieves as main characters. What else can you expect. At least that makes plot development a little bit more interesting, yet predictable, nonetheless. You are already expecting a twist halfway through because otherwise the movie would be too bland. Enjoyable, yes. Formulaic, also yes. Here’s to hoping that the storytelling aspect will improve in the next two sequels. Surprise us, Netflix.

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