After a strong run of theatrical releases since the summer ended, this past weekend presented a surprising lull. It was something I somewhat anticipated a week previously when I noticed that Ghostbusters: Afterlife and King Richard were coming out on the same weekend, that being the next one. My surprise came when I looked over the offerings this past weekend and saw that Clifford the Big Red Dog received top billing at the cinemas nearest my residence. Silly me for making the assumption that some other big title was debuting that I overlooked in my haphazard preparations. And when my nieces decided they did not want to see a film about a cartoon, oversized canine (for some reason), I decided to not be the creepy dude sitting by himself in theater watching a movie for kids. Instead, I stayed home and watched Red Notice in between football games. At least they both have the word “red” in them?
After explaining the McGuffin up front, Red Notice goes on to fill you in on the significance of the title. It is something about the highest level of “wanted-ness,” if I may coin a term, by international police (INTERPOL). The McGuffin, by the way, are these three golden eggs given by Marc Antony to his star-crossed Egyptian lover Cleopatra. I have no idea if any of these things are real. Since the movie does not seem to particularly care, neither do I. Nor does it matter. What follows is a heist movie, with thieves with global reputations seeking to steal all three. The reason for such proposed heists is that there is an Egyptian billionaire who wants to give all three to his daughter as a wedding present, and is willing to pay an exorbitant fee to whoever can bring them to him. With such attention being put on the eggs, Special Agent John Hartley (Dwayne Johnson) of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) travels to Rome where one of the sought-after objects is housed in a museum. He is convinced that it will be taken by Nolan Booth (Ryan Reynolds), considered by some to be the greatest cat burglar in the world. Though Hartley spots Booth in the crowd, Booth is able to slip away in the ensuing chase. Booth takes his pilfered merchandise back to his tropical home in Bali, only to find Hartley and INTERPOL waiting there for him. Booth and the egg are taken into custody, but the egg ends up being swiped off the back of one of their vehicles by Booth’s main competition, a mysterious female thief Sarah Black, who goes by The Bishop (Gal Gadot). Thinking the case closed, Hartley prepares to return home when he is visited in the airport by INTERPOL agent Urvashi Das (Ritu Arya). She has not only discovered that the egg they thought they recovered from Booth is a fake, but that the FBI supposedly has no record of Hartley. Ergo, she believes Hartley is in on the caper and arrests him. Of course, the Russian prison to which he is sent, and the corresponding cell, are to be shared by Booth. After the requisite Ryan Reynolds wise-cracking sessions, Hartley is able to convince Booth to team up in their escape. In exchange for Booth’s assistance in getting to The Bishop and clearing the erstwhile FBI agent’s name by arresting the competition, Booth will become the undisputed greatest thief in the world. Once free, they travel to Valencia, Spain, to the home of a well-known criminal boss with a penchant for strangling people known as Sotto Voce (Chris Diamantopoulos). He is in possession of the second egg. They also know that Black will be there as well. Following a complex plan involving technology and tricking guards, Booth and Hartley make it into the vault where the egg is kept, only to be met there by Black. A struggle ensues, though it is ultimately pointless as Sotto Voce is working with Black. Now, all Black needs is the location of the last egg. This is information that Booth has, part of the legacy of his father who spent much of his life looking for it. Once this is revealed through torture, Black promptly double crosses Sotto Voce and sets off for Egypt. For their part, Booth and Hartley are able to get free once again and head for Argentina, Egypt being a ruse. On the way, Booth tells Hartley about how the missing egg had been in the possession of Nazi Germany, and that their chief of antiquities had absconded with it and other valuables to South America after World War II. Booth’s father had uncovered the exact latitude and longitude of the vault built to house these objects. Once inside, who should show up but Black, followed closely by Agent Das and INTERPOL. Seeing the authorities as a common enemy, our three heroes jump into a miraculously still operating German car and take off down the mine shaft in which the bunker had been built. In desperation, they speed the car off a cliff, through a waterfall, and into a plunge pool. As one-by-one they crawl out of the water, Hartley delivers a devastating revelation to Booth: Hartley and Black had been working together all along. Booth has one last trick, though. On the heels of their massive payday, Booth tips off INTERPOL about the account, who then freeze the millions in it. Booth then gets them to agree to help him with a score in exchange for getting their money returned. We close with our trio walking up to the Louvre in Paris, the presumptive target for Booth’s plot.
I was mildly entertained by Red Notice. “Mildly” is a difficult adjective to emphasize, though I want to, because any extra emphasis makes it lose its meaning. Anyway, one thing that the film has going for it is that it does not take itself too seriously. Then again, when you have made up history and eighty-year-old cars that had not moved since Hitler shot himself, it would be stretching believability if any of this was meant to be serious. Part of this is Ryan Reynolds’ fault, though I still find his quips amusing. In this one, though, it seems like he is making fun of the movie while he is in it. If you see it, you will probably get an Indiana Jones vibe from it. I had been thinking this for much of the runtime. Then, when Booth and Hartley enter the bunker where the last egg is, Booth is whistling the theme music from the film franchise about our favorite fictional archaeologist. Also, when they get to their prize, Booth comments on how nice it would be to find it in a conveniently labeled box. When this actually happens, he refers to it as the “McGuffin crate.” Reynolds is capable of gravitas. There is some of it on display in this movie. While Booth and Hartley are in their cell, Booth begins to reveal the tumultuous relationship he had with his father. The sincerity is genuine, only to be defused by Hartley pretending to be snoring. These may sound like complaints, though they are not intended as such necessarily. It works for this piece of cinema. I only wonder if Reynolds will be able to break out of this wise-cracking mold he seems to have set for himself.
I am not sure what to say about Red Notice from a Catholic perspective. Its three protagonists all turn out to be crooks, and that is not ideal. Each one had pretty awful upbringings, especially in relation to their fathers, and they turned to a life of crime. Faith teaches us to transcend our circumstances. Even in the worst of times when it seems like nobody cares for you, there is an all seeing, all living God who will be with you through it all. At the same time, despite them specifically saying otherwise, they are not your typical “bad guys.” Okay, maybe Black is given how she seems a little more comfortable with doing bad things. Booth and Hartley, on the other hand, develop a genuine bond despite their constant bickering, which is nice to see. Overall, aside from a little violence and off-color humor, it is a perfectly serviceable film. It is good enough to pass the time, if you have it, and then forget about it almost immediately after the credits roll.