Skip to main content
film review
Open this photo in gallery:

Ryan Reynolds, Gal Gadot and Dwayne Johnson star in Red Notice.Frank Masi/Netflix

Plan your screen time with the weekly What to Watch newsletter. Sign up today.

  • Red Notice
  • Written and directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber
  • Starring Dwayne Johnson, Ryan Reynolds and Gal Gadot
  • Classification PG; 115 minutes
  • Opens in select theatres Nov. 4; streaming on Netflix starting Nov. 12

Something is broken in Hollywood. Okay, to be fair, many things are broken in Hollywood. But if you manage to assemble three of the industry’s biggest stars (Dwayne Johnson, Ryan Reynolds and Gal Gadot) to star in a time-tested genre (the heist flick) with hundreds of millions of dollars at your disposal, and you still cannot produce a passably entertaining feature? Then, yeah, the system is not only broken. It is on bloody fire, people.

Open this photo in gallery:

Ryan Reynolds is Nolan Booth and Dwayne Johnson is John Hartley.Frank Masi/Netflix

In a certain way, then, Red Notice is a must-see: The new Netflix movie offers a prime example of all that is wrong with contemporary big-budget mainstream filmmaking. The story is bland, the action incoherent, the surprises detestably nonsensical, the humour never rising above the level of a half-smirk. And for a movie that gathers the world’s most perfectly sculpted denizens, everything is bafflingly sexless. If Red Notice is the future of the big and shiny movie, then we are now in the era of the neutered blockbuster.

The most depressing element of all: There was genuine potential here. A tale of two competing thieves (Reynolds and Gadot) and the cop (Johnson) intent on catching them, Red Notice could have been a breezy, twisty exercise in high-gloss, low-brain escapism. But writer-director Rawson Marshall Thurber makes a crucial misstep from the get-go: He’s made a stupid movie that thinks it’s smart, instead of hitting the sweet spot of a stupid movie that’s just smart enough to know that it should be stupid.

Open this photo in gallery:

Ritu Arya is Inspector Urvashi Das.Frank Masi/Netflix

The same tonal error hindered Thurber’s previous collaboration with Johnson, 2018′s Skyscraper, but it’s felt more acutely here. Everything, from the script to the set-pieces to the zombified performances, feels crushed by mechanical familiarity. Johnson gets to be the stony tough guy. Reynolds gets to be the ain’t-I-a-stinker wiseacre. And Gadot gets to, uh, play the woman. With the exception of an early moment in which Thurber briefly upends our expectations of a high-octane car chase, there is nothing in Red Notice that will quicken your pulse, let alone coax a smile.

If the movie was some industry outlier, I’d be less anxious. But this is the second Reynolds action-comedy this year to suffocate my spirits (after The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard), the second Johnson-Reynolds team-up to prove more annoying than energizing (after Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw), and the second Netflix film in as many months to whiff the hard-to-squander pleasures of a heist film (after Army of Thieves).

Don’t worry, though: I’m sure that Netflix’s inevitable Red Notice 2 will algorithmically repair all the damage done above. Because it cannot possibly deliver anything worse.

In the interest of consistency across all critics’ reviews, The Globe has eliminated its star-rating system in film and theatre to align with coverage of music, books, visual arts and dance. Instead, works of excellence will be noted with a Critic’s Pick designation across all coverage.

Follow related authors and topics

Authors and topics you follow will be added to your personal news feed in Following.

Interact with The Globe