It begins with mercenaries massacring a village in the Republic of Georgia, because they won’t accept a gas pipeline scheduled to pass through it. It prematurely climaxes with an attack on a Eurostar Chunnel train, passengers popped without pity by smirking “contractor” villains.
And at every turn, mercs and the military folk commissioned via “Red Notice” to bring them down — by the same British government that hired the Black Swan “contractors” in the first place — make wisecracks and “switch off” to get on with their lives.
“SAS: Red Notice” is bad by design, stupid in execution and soulless in every important and unimportant way. A terrible script renders respectable actors (Tom Wilkinson, Andy Serkis) terrible, and limited “action” stars (Ruby Rose) unwatchably awful.
It’s no wonder Netflix changed the title to “Rise of the Black Swan” when they got it. The “brand” was tarnished.
The pithy “Die Hard Lite” punchlines don’t help.
“Was it something I said?”
Wilkinson runs the Black Swans as a family business. Ironically named daughter Grace (Rose) is his heir apparent, chosen over his more lunkish son (Owain Yeoman).
A cellphone video of the massacre gets out, the news that they’ll all be arrested (fat chance, “silenced”) is announced on TV long before the raid on their suburban London estate is planned.
Naturally, villains get away. Not to worry. “Posh” Tom Buckingham (Sam Heughan), a commando with an estate of his own, got in his share of kills. He’ll sweep reluctant doctor-girlfriend Sophia (Hannah John-Kamen) off to Paris, let the police and border control folks round the rest up.
How’ll the mismatched couple travel? Train, of course. Before Grace, who sheds the clever disguise that got her on board, can say “There’s a player in the battle space. He’s armed and trained,” the slaughter begins, with passengers murdered left and right as if all on board realize this is a suicide mission.
The train attack details are interesting enough, if you’ve ever wondered how somebody might attempt something like that (surely some groups have given it a lot of thought).
But the action beats are half-hearted, the plot “twists” unworthy of that label and situations and dialogue ludicrous on an English-as-Second-Language level.
“We’re a lot alike,” is a given, something the villainess is sure to say to Tom. As is, “How many people have you killed?”
A favorite moment? Sophie instantly over-shares with a stranger the next seat over, pre-attack.
“He takes lives for a living,” she cracks. “I save them.”
Andy Serkis plays a ruthless SAS leader who knows “politicians come and go,” that he’s the only constant.
“I’m still going,” he purrs to a captive. “You’re about to stop.”
It’s a messy blood-bath with a “Die Hard” sequel death-count, no real heroes and no one to root for. The best one can say for the cast is I hope their checks cleared.
Veteran TV (“Twelve Monkeys,” some “Walking Dead” spinoff) director Magnus Martens, and screenwriter (“Soul Assassin”) Laurence Malkin?
I hope your checks bounced.
MPA Rating: R for strong/bloody violence and language throughout
Cast: Ruby Rose, Sam Heughan, Hannah John-Kamen, Tom Hopper, Andy Serkis and Tom Wilkinson.
Credits: Directed by Magnus Martens, script by Laurence Malkin, based on a novel by Andy McNab. A Vertical release.
Running time: 2:03