“Red Notice” has the polished feel of something concocted in a lab for maximum social-media attention (Dwayne Johnson! Ryan Reynolds! Gal Gadot!), then pieced together Frankenstein-style from parts of other movies. Yet the net effect is mildly enjoyable, creating a throwback caper film that showcases its stars doing what they do best, or rather for which they’re best known.
Written and directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber (who teamed with Johnson, whose company produced the film, on “Central Intelligence” and “Skyscraper”), “Red Notice”borrows unabashedly from other films but doesn’t appear the least bit red-faced or apologetic about it. There’s the mismatched cop-thief pairing from “48 Hrs.,” the party sequence from “True Lies,” the clue-solving from “National Treasure,” and so on.
Any movie that jokes about the sought-after loot being a MacGuffin, a reference to Alfred Hitchcock’s name for whatever priceless artifact set his plots in motion, or has Reynolds whistle the “Raiders of the Lost Ark” march clearly isn’t taking itself too seriously.
Again, though, it generally works, with Johnson as Agent John Hartley, an FBI profiler (a little bulky for that gig, as is pointed out) on the trail of Reynolds’ Nolan Booth, a master thief searching for three gold-plated eggs of immeasurable value given to Cleopatra.
Their relationship is complicated by another thief, Gadot’s The Bishop – like Booth, given a “red notice,” or “most wanted” tag, by the international agency Interpol – who invariably seems to be one step ahead of both of them, forcing the two to grudgingly team up.
Globetrotting hijinks ensue, with scads of action and fighting but little in the way of blood or bodies, keeping things relatively light and, a few naughty words and sexual references aside, family friendly.
Nobody can be accused of stretching their creative portfolio here, with Reynolds tossing off one smart-alecky one-liner after another (mostly at Johnson’s expense), Johnson portraying a square-jawed hero and Gadot proving mysterious, alluring and characteristically wonder-ful. (When she turns up in a slinky red dress, Reynolds dryly tells her she looks OK.)
Like Reynolds’ earlier film for the service “6 Underground,” it’s the sort of big, muscular action vehicle that certainly wouldn’t look out of place in theaters, buttressing Netflix’s desire to offer a little something for everyone with an off-the-charts “You might like” factor to feed the service’s algorithms.
Indeed, having this movie arrive heading into the service’s twin onslaught of holiday fare and award contenders almost plays like a calculated alternative, cheerfully free of any pretensions about high art. Let other movies fret about taking home gold. Like its thieves, “Red Notice” is transparently committed to going for the green.