“Red Notice” doesn’t go to hell straight away. Oh no.
The first act is “Thomas Crown Affair,” witty and caperish and fun. The second act is “National Treasure” warmed over — a treasure hunt with lots of Big Budget action derring-do. Meh.
The third act? “Indiana Jones’ Greatest Hits.”
Zzzzzzzz… No. Literally.
You start with FBI profiler Hartley (Dwayne Johnson) chasing “the world’s second best” art thief (Ryan Reynolds) through capers and quips.
“That was a fun foot chase, right? Lots of twists and turns. Who knew it’d end like this?”
It forces these two to team up against The Bishop, the world’s greatest art thief (Gal Gadot), hunting down “Cleopatra’s Eggs” (invented, no such thing) from Spain to Argentina.
And it climaxes with Ed Sheeran as a punchline.
Let down? Yeah, a bit.
The first act’s gags had me giggling — a Reynolds riff or three, Johnson commandeering a Product Placement Porsche for a chase — and wrecking it three seconds later.
The second act grinds to a halt, the third takes on delusions of theme park rides and a franchise.
Nope and nope.
Just spitballing here, but I’m guessing his “Skyscraper” and “Central Intelligence” director talked Johnson into taking Netflix Bitcoin for this, and DJ hustled up DC queen Gadot and Every Action Comedy’s Best Friend, Canada’s second sweetest export, Reynolds.
And if they don’t regret it, maybe The Wrestler Formerly Known as The Rock can drop all the “MCU and DC Universe” crossover talk. Because this bust pretty much stops payment on that check.
Reynolds’ Nolan Booth isn’t just a master thief, he’s an escape artist — “six for six…One more, and I get a ‘Shawshank’ jacket.”
Johnson’s profiler seems to get the drop on him almost as often as the Italian Interpol cop (Ritu Arya) who busts in on most every heist and locale they wind up in, and the movie winds up in a lot — Rome, Bali, etc.
When she packs BOTH of them off to Interpol prison in snowy Siberia, the viewer is given pause.
“Forget Guantanamo! INTERPOL has RUSSIAN prisons?”
Gadot glams up the joint as the fly in the ointment, and is most impressive not in mimicking her Wonder Woman moves in “trophy room” fights. The twinkle in her eye in a few moments of sadism is some of the best acting we’ve ever seen her do. We hope it’s acting, anyway.
Johnson has evolved into a first-rate straight man and bulk-rate punchline. And Reynolds makes everything, even middling pix like “Red Notice” — the title is Interpol’s “highest” warrant, the script claims — bubbly enough to endure.
There’s no sense pummeling a popcorn picture whose greatest sins are running out of new ideas, running out of gas and running through Reynolds’ repertoire of riffs as it does.
But this is by far the worst Rawson Marshall Thurber outing to star Dwayne Johnson, and even though it’s made for Netflix (briefly in theaters as I type this), the Big Guy always with a Big Plan for What’s Next has got to be thinking maybe it’s time to change phone numbers.
Because when you hit that wall in the third act, it’s not just ginger pop Ed Sheeran staring back at you. It’s what a certain Canadian wit would call “resting failure face.”
Rating: PG-13 for violence and action, some sexual references, and strong language
Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Ryan Reynolds, Gal Gadot, Ritu Arya and Chris Diamantopoulos
Credits: Scripted and directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber. A Netflix release.
Running time: 1:57