Gal Gadot saves the day in Red Notice, the Netflix movie about art thieves that will be released on November 12. Not her character, a master art thief called the Bishop (a name that is never explained, makes no sense and hints at a very different conception of the role at some earlier point), but Gadot herself. Her sexy presence, her energy and the clingy red dress (featured in virtually all of the film’s publicity stills) that she wears so well elevate what is a tired, formulaic cliché fest designed to amuse couch potatoes into something intermittently entertaining. Her costars – Ryan Reynolds and Dwayne Johnson – are good sports, and no one is taking this too seriously, but the fact that the cast lets the audience know they are in on the joke doesn’t make the movie fun.
Only Gadot has enough star quality to make Red Notice sparkle for a few moments, but to be honest, had I not been reviewing the film, I would have flicked it off long before she made her first entrance. Much has been made of the fact that, according to reports, this movie had the highest budget of any Netflix film, as much as $200 million. When you watch it, you will guess that they spent a lot of that on salaries and you will see that a great deal of it went into the stunts, but you will wish that more of it was spent on the script.
The film is a pastiche of a dozen other movies, notably the Indiana Jones series. Art thievery on screen is usually fun since it isn’t violent or cruel. (If you want to see a truly fun movie on this theme try the 1999 version of The Thomas Crown Affair, with Pierce Brosnan and Rene Russo.) Red Notice, which was written and directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber, tries to reclaim the enjoyable action movie genre, now that James Bond (spoiler alert) has gotten in touch with his sensitive side in No Time to Die, which is not what most of us want in a Bond flick. Netflix has often stepped in in the past to give us movies we can actually enjoy in a way that Hollywood studios can’t seem to manage anymore, but Red Notice is a clumsy failure.
The plot tells the story of a scheme to find and steal three jewel-encrusted eggs Marc Antony gave Cleopatra, to give to a sheikh who wants them as a wedding present for his daughter. Reynolds plays Nolan Booth, an art thief who lives in a lovely tropical compound and Johnson is John Hartley, an FBI profiler who travels the world and doesn’t seem to know that the FBI handles US crimes. Much of the movie is a buddy comedy as these two spar. The Bishop (Gadot) is an art thief who easily convinces us she is much smarter than the two men and who pops up at various times. She looks great dancing at a fancy party and beating up her costars in a clip that was released to promote the movie and which is unquestionably the high point.
Red Notice features locations in Italy, Russia, Spain and other spots but was made mostly in Atlanta, when its Italian locations were closed down in the beginning of the pandemic, back when we thought that China and Italy were the countries principally affected by the coronavirus.
The movie’s attempts at humor are pretty weak, although there is one gag involving Ed Sheeran late in the movie that works well and there are references to classic movies like Preston Sturges’ Sullivan’s Travels that movie buffs will appreciate.
But the clunky outweighs the clever. When Johnson manages to get the better of Reynolds, Reynolds says, “You sneaky little minx, where’d you learn that? Profile school?” and Johnson replies, “High school.”
At another moment, the two engage in this exchange:
Reynolds: You love me?
Johnson: I hate you... I’m a good guy, but sometimes I do bad things... Let’s grab the egg and get the hell out of here.
Reynolds: You don’t wanna talk about what just happened?
Johnson: What are you talking about?
Reynolds: Our moment. We just had a moment.
Johnson: We didn’t have a moment.
It’s hard to imagine anyone over 10 who won’t get impatient with a repartee like this. The millions of Gal Gadot fans around the world who will tune in will undoubtedly fast-forward to the scenes that feature their favorite star, which is the big advantage of seeing this at home and not on the big screen.