Friday, 02 December 2022

‘Red Notice’ blends comedy and action with a twist of snark


The challenge of coping during the pandemic has affected the entertainment business in multiple ways. One of them being how films are not only produced but released to the public.

Some films go straight to a streaming platform. Others, like the James Bond film “No Time to Die” waited for what seemed like forever for its rightful place on the big screen.

Warner Brothers, using its HBO Max streaming service, may have started the trend of releasing its films simultaneously in theaters and on its streaming platform.

Apparently that practice will change next year when Warner Brothers films assigned for theatrical release will run exclusively in cinemas for at least 45 days before hitting their paid video service.

Netflix is getting in on the action with its hybrid release of the comedy action film “Red Notice,” which was released in theaters for one week prior to its debut on its streaming service.

With an all-star cast of Dwayne Johnson, Ryan Reynolds and the striking Israeli actress and model Gal Gadot (“Wonder Woman”), “Red Notice” probably benefits from the marketing tool of exposure on the big screen.

Netflix went big in other ways as well, staging a live premiere event at the L.A. Live event complex, which as recounted in “The Hollywood Reporter” trade publication “delivered a scene reminiscent of a major Hollywood award show.”

“Red Notice” takes its title from an Interpol advisory to its member countries that a fugitive fleeing a country is internationally wanted for evading justice. This would apply to Ryan Reynolds’ Nolan Booth, an international art thief trying to steal a historic golden egg.

As legend goes, according to the film’s fictional prologue, Cleopatra was gifted three Faberge-like golden eggs, of which two were discovered and the third missing one is the target of fortune hunters we’ve seen in films like “Indiana Jones” and “National Treasure.”

A notorious criminal like Nolan Booth will spare no effort to steal a precious golden egg, and he manages to get caught after being tracked to Rome by none other than Dwight Johnson’s FBI Agent John Hartley.

After Booth gets sent to an isolated Russian prison that feels like a Soviet gulag, Hartley himself ends up there as well subsequently getting framed for the heist by Gal Gadot’s The Bishop, another art thief eager to piece together a three golden egg collection for herself.

With Booth and Hartley engineering a daring prison break, it is one of the action highlights, including a wintry shootout at the prison gate as the duo hijack a helicopter that barely escapes rocket fire.

While Booth and the federal agent are forced into a tenuous partnership, intrepid Interpol inspector Urvashi Das (Ritu Arya) is hot on their trail. Hartley will need to find The Bishop to clear his name and having to rely on help from Booth is, well, kind of unsettling.

As to be expected, Booth and Hartley bicker and banter in what one calls a marriage of convenience, and at one point Booth, in his ubiquitously snarky tone, claims that he wants a divorce and is taking the children.

Another bad guy in the picture is the oddly-named Sotto Voce (Chris Diamantopoulus), a diminutive arms dealer whose fancy party is infiltrated by Booth and Hartley, and The Bishop shows up in a slinky red dress for a choreographed fight with them.

Sotto Voce is as about a ludicrous villain as you can imagine. For no apparent reason, other than maybe emulating Vladimir Putin, he takes his shirt off to reveal his tattooed torso while threatening Booth and Hartley, still chained to a post after being tortured.

One obvious point about this comedic heist caper is that despite its not-so-disguised lifting of thematic elements from other action films, the stellar cast of the three leading characters are the selling point to fun adventure.

Speaking of a copycat formula, a climactic scene involves an adventure into the Argentinian jungle in search of the missing egg hidden in an underground Nazi warehouse that reminds one of “Raiders of the Lost Ark.”

“Red Notice,” and this is not necessarily a bad thing, is running on its star power of charismatic actors doing their usual stuff. That would mean Ryan Reynolds’ comic riffs, Dwayne Johnson’s stoic intensity and Gal Gadot’s sexy allure and streetwise toughness.

Something endearing about “Red Notice,” with all of its hijinks and caustic banter, is that in spite of its huge budget there is no pretension of artistic merit. This is not an entertainment for high-brow critics. It’s nothing more than just escapist fun.

Dare to view the closing moment of “Red Notice” and not think a sequel is either already in the works or the producers await a public clamoring for the next installment. The actors are certainly charismatic enough to warrant a return engagement.

Tim Riley writes film and television reviews for Lake County News.

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