While Netflix has dumped Hollywood-level boatloads of cash into previous productions à la Martin Scorsese’s mega The Irishman ($159 million), and Michael Bay’s Underground ($150 million), Red Notice boasts the streaming giant’s biggest budget to date, along with its highest level of A-list talent, in the form of Dwayne Johnson, Ryan Reynolds, and Gal Gadot. With an estimated budget of $200 million, and a limited theatrical release to be eligible for awards consideration, any thoughts Netflix isn’t treating its original tentpole productions with the same focus as traditional Hollywood studios is totally out the window, further eroding any arguments against streaming services as legitimate forms of entertainment.
Of course, we’ve learned time and again that big budgets and casts don’t guarantee a good movie, so the obvious questions are, “Does Red Notice work? And is it worth your time?”
With a current Rotten Tomatoes critics’ score of 35%, you might say, “No,” but when you counter that with the 91% audience score, it’s probably apparent Red Notice is designed to entertain viewers less than cater to critics.
While it doesn’t break any new ground, and relies heavily on elements from heist movies like the Ocean’s films starring George Clooney and Brad Pitt, the Mission: Impossible franchise, and Indiana Jones—at one point, Reynolds even whistles the Indy theme—the chemistry between Reynolds and Johnson and their anti-buddy frenemy relationship makes for an entertaining two hours. Watching Reynolds needle Johnson for almost the entire film was great, and
RED NOTICE AT A GLANCE
Netflix spent $200 million to come up with this action-driven heist film that critics hate but viewers seem to love.
The transfer is taken from a true 4K digital intermediate with Dolby Vision HDR grading, resulting in images that are sharp, clean, and highly detailed throughout.
The Dolby Atmos track definitely enhances the fun with a pretty dynamic mix with surprisingly deep bass performance.
you have to wonder if the genesis of this bond was formed during Reynold’s cameo in Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw. We watched Red Notice right after Shang Chi and everyone in our group preferred Red.
We’re informed during the opening credits that a Red Notice is, “The highest level of arrest warrant issued by The International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL), reserved for the world’s most wanted criminals.”
We’re then told that 2,000 years ago, Marcus Antonius gave Cleopatra three bejeweled eggs. While the whereabouts of one egg is known, the second is rumored to be in the possession of a notorious arms dealer and the third remains lost. An Egyptian billionaire wants to give all three of the eggs to his daughter, Cleopatra (Brenna Marie Narayan), as a wedding present, and he has offered a massive reward to whoever can deliver. This attracts the attention of international art thief Nolan Booth (Reynolds), but also puts FBI profiler Special Agent John Hartley (Johnson) and Interpol agent Urvashi Das (Ritu Arya) on high alert when one of the eggs is put on display at a museum in Rome.
After thinking he has made off with the first egg, Booth is apprehended by Hartley and Das at his home in Bali, but the egg is then stolen by Booth’s main competitor for title of “World’s Best Thief,” The Bishop (Gadot). The Bishop also plants disinformation that makes it appear Hartley was in on the heist, which leads to he and Booth winding up in the same Russian prison cell, forcing them to work together.
Throw in a bad guy named Sotto Voce (Chris Diamantopoulos), who looks eerily like a cross between Paul Rudd and Dos Equis’ “World’s Most Interesting Man,” a bull fight, elaborate escapes and thefts, chases, and Nazis, and you’ll have a pretty good idea what Red Notice is about.
What the film lacks in originality, it more than makes up for in fun, packing in almost non-stop action with plenty of big scenes and a ton of locations—Rome, Bali, Russia, London, Valencia, Argentina, Cairo, Sardinia, Paris—that keep the visuals fresh and interesting. There are also plenty of plot twists along the way to keep you entertained.
And humor. Reynolds brings his signature snark to almost every scene, similar to the PG-13 patter he brought to Free Guy. In fact, I daresay the only reason I can think of to not see this is if you aren’t a fan of Reynolds’ humor. Also, since all three of the leads have experience playing superheroes—Black Adam for Johnson, Wonder Woman for Gadot, and both Green Lantern and Deadpool for Reynolds—they know their way around action and choreographing exciting fight scenes.
Netflix has been a real advocate for 4K HDR in its productions, so it’s no surprise that Red Notice was shot in a combination of 6K and 8K resolution, and that the transfer is taken from a true 4K digital intermediate with Dolby Vision HDR grading, resulting in images that are sharp, clean, and highly detailed throughout.
A scene in the opening shows a line drawing of Cleopatra, and its lines are crisp, sharp, and defined. Closeups reveal tons of detail in the actors’ faces, making it easy to see the creases, crags, and lines in Johnson’s head and face versus Reynolds’ whiskers and stubble and the smooth near-perfection of Gadot’s skin. You can also really appreciate the texture in surfaces like the stone and brick walls outside the museum in Rome or the pebbled surface of the doors and sides of an armored car, or the detail and sharpness of individual leaves in a jungle forest. Even lengthy shots like one of London in golden early morning light have lots of sharpness.
There is also a ton of pop courtesy of the DolbyVision HDR grading. Right from the very beginning, I noticed how saturated the color red is in the titles. There are also beautiful, bright highlights off golden objects such as one of the eggs, or from bright sunlight streaming in through windows, or interiors lit by warm lighting that almost give the images a glow. Other scenes, like one showing video screens inside a security station, really pop with bright highlights. Black levels were deep and solid and clean throughout as well. The only bit of streaming nastiness I noticed was a moment when characters were dunked underwater, and there was a bit of posterization in the murky lighting.
Sonically, the Dolby Atmos track definitely enhanced the fun with a pretty dynamic mix. We get nice atmospheric effects like voices echoing off the hard museum walls, the flat sound inside an old bunker, the swirls of winds and snow, the background yells, commotion, and buzzers in a prison, or the huge crowd roars and cheers during the bullfight.
The mix also really expands when called on via active height channels used effectively to add another sonic layer when appropriate. We get the almost requisite Atmos helicopter flyover that clearly races overhead, or the sounds of water bubbling up all around, and moments like The Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage” blaring from all channels prior to the start of a big chase.
There is plenty of action here, and I was surprised by the depth of the bass performance. Besides the report of gunfire, you can really feel the weight of heavy doors as they slam shut or the concussion of grenades as they go off.
Thanks to its generous budget, the visual effects and production values are first-rate, and the leads play their roles exactly as you would expect. Honestly, this feels like a big-budget Hollywood production that would have been successful at the box office. For Netflix subscribers, I can’t think of any reason why you wouldn’t add it to your list.
Probably the most experienced writer on custom installation in the industry, John Sciacca is co-owner of Custom Theater & Audio in Murrells Inlet, South Carolina, & is known for his writing for such publications as Residential Systems and Sound & Vision. Follow him on Twitter at @SciaccaTweets and at johnsciacca.com.