Starring some of the biggest names in popcorn blockbusters, Red Notice could have been a great movie. Involving the talents of Mr Ryan “Free Guy” Reynolds (but really just 50 shades of Deadpool), Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, and Gal “Wonder Woman” Gadot, Netflix’s latest blockbuster should have been global viewer catnip in the vein of Bird Box and Extraction. Garnering 89 million and 99 million views respectively, Netflix productions like those weren’t green-lit solely because they had good plots. The decisions were based on a number of factors including, and most substantively, on what AI concluded after parsing consumer data.
Netflix is a data-driven company and depending on the superior tastes of a team of human arbiters with varying tastes and interests is not something you build a billion dollar on. Netflix does need licenses from studios, but they don’t just pick movies and television shows at random. In 2006, the streaming behemoth announced the Netflix Prize, a competition for creating an algorithm that would “substantially improve the accuracy of predictions about how much someone is going to enjoy a movie based on their movie preferences.”
Traditionally, movies are green-lit based on intuition and the right backer. Find an auteur or director who has proven blockbuster instincts and chances are, you’re going to get a movie made. With over 150 million subscribers, Netflix has the advantage of being an internet company that literally knows what their customers want based on hours of binge-watching and repeat viewing habits. And chances are, over time, given the preponderance of the majority of viewers to have really “basic” tastes, you’re going to get movies like the passable yet enjoyable “Quiet Place” facsimile Bird Box (but the danger is sight rather than silence) and their latest effort, Red Notice.
What made you interested in Red Notice?
Ryan Reynolds: I was most interested in working with my friends, with my pals. I love the fact that I got to just show. I didn’t have a lot of.. A lot of the movies I do, I produce and I’m writing on, and there’s a lot more responsibility. This one, I got to just kind of jump in the sandbox with some friends. I’ve known for a long time and have fun. And it’s not every day that you get to do that. And sometimes you forget this job is fun, and I never forgot it for a second on the set of Red Notice, it was really special.
Gal Gadot: Dwayne. Seriously, it was Rawson Marshall Thurber, our wonderful director and writer. When he first pitched me the idea for the movie, I was blown away by the ambitiousness and how surprising the story is.
Dwayne Johnson: I love the idea that it was always Gal, who Rawson had in mind and the moment he said her name. I said, Well, I love her. She’s one of my favourite human beings. She’d be amazing in this, the idea that she plays the most wanted art thief in the world, and that automatically is intriguing to me as a movie fan.
How did you prepare for this role then?
Ryan: There wasn’t a ton to do in terms of, you know, deep seated character work. What Netflix really wanted to put together here was they wanted Dwayne, Gal and I to have a kind of off screen friendship and camaraderie that is, you know, the exact same thing you’re seeing on screen. They want, that’s what they were paying for. They wanted that on the big screen and they wanted that to transfer over to Red Notice and be a part of the DNA and fabric of the storytelling. And that’s what we were excited to give them. So you know, when if you come to dinner with Dwayne and I, you will see we quite literally talk to each other the way, the way we talk to each other in Red Notice.
Gal: We trained, we had a dancing scene that was new for me at least. I don’t know how it was for you. But it was, Oh, I didn’t know you doing it.
Dwayne: [Laughs] Now I know it
Gal: We rehearse for the dance, and it was such a, it was such a delightful scene to be able to to work on with such an amazing partner like D.J.. I was a bit nervous at the beginning for my poor feet..
Dwayne: [Laughs] she thought she was dancing with a velociraptor.
Gal: Turns out DJ is a ballerina with the lightest feet and it was amazing.
Yes, the chemistry is palpable and indeed, these are the planet’s most bankable stars. Charming, magnetic, friendly, Reynolds is one of Hollywood’s most likeable stars. the Deadpool actor is the industry’s second highest paid star. second only to Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson I might add.
Johnson, already popular from his days as a wrestler, we hadn’t had a movie star like Arnold Schwarzenegger for decades until The Rock transitioned to films. Handling action and comedy with equal aplomb, his star vehicle came when he was cast in the Fast & Furious franchise where he eventually parlayed his charisma into a franchise of his own – Jumanji (which has made almost $2 billion worldwide).
Finally, there’s our lady in red. Dubbed the “biggest Israeli superstar” and “Israel’s most successful actress,” Gal Gadot rose to fame after being crowned Miss Israel 2004 and when she landed the role of Wonder Woman in 2015’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, the rest they say is history. That said, it doesn’t take a computer to figure out – quite simplistically one might add – that perhaps three of the world’s most bankable stars together will make a summer blockbuster three times as popular. However, it takes a human to realise that individual appeal doesn’t always translate well into an ensemble class. That’s not to say that these actors are unlikeable together, it’s that in Red Notice, these actors overlap in so many spheres of appeal that it is quite hard to pay attention to anything else in terms of plot or action sequences.
Anything about your cast mates, performance on the set blew you away?
Ryan: Oh, boy. Gal’s so athletic and so gifted at the fight sequences, she did a ton of that herself as well. I was really blown away by that. So that was probably the first and foremost thing. And then Dwayne’s just, you know, I mean, I’ve known him a long time, but just his sheer strength. He’s so strong. I mean, he just picked me up and threw me across the room like I was a toothpick so those were pretty amazing moments to sort of witness firsthand.
Gal: I mean, there are so many delightful moments and scenes that we got to work on together in the film, one of the most memorable one for me was the first time that I got to shoot with the boys with D.J. and Ryan. And it was in the Russian prison and it was such a funny day. It was, we were breaking so many takes. I got to say that I feel super grateful and lucky that I got to work with such an amazing talent like D.J. and Ryan and enjoy the process throughout. And I just think that it always shows on screen.
Dwayne: There are a lot of scenes that really stick out that I think showcase all of our strengths, including her strength as an actor and her prowess. So it’s nice for me to just have kind of like a front row seat to watch and witness. Well, one scene in particular… [laughs] The boat. , we finally see Gal’s character and my character in the middle of the ocean on this beautiful yacht. And the scene starts off with Gal is coming out of the ocean. It is a gorgeous, iconic and cinematic history because it’s so unbelievably sexy.
Gal: [Laughs] You should watch the movie for the boat.
Ryan, you seem to go for funny shows and characters in general. What does humor and wit mean to you, and why do you prefer those kinds of titles and roles Ryan?
Ryan: You know, I think humour and wit in movies are byproducts of personal pathos. I think you can’t really have any understanding of the dynamics of comedy unless you sort of understand its opposite. So I think, you know, I do see comedy as an under appreciated medium, you know, in the film business, you know, drama not to be, you know, quoting Shakespeare or anything. But you know, the idea that death is easy comedy is hard. I do agree with that in a certain respect. You know, comedy is a very challenging art form, and I have a great deal of reverence and respect for it. I think I always will. I’m always trying to grow and learn more. I really do owe a lot, a huge debt of gratitude to those who’ve come before me and I grew up watching Steve Martin’s, you know, the Eddie Murphy’s, you know, John Candy’s of the world, the Gene Wilder’s. You know, those are people that I have a huge, Peter Sellers, huge influences on and shaped me in a lot of different ways.
What sets Red Notice apart from other heist shows and films?
Ryan: I think it’s the trio. You know, I think that’s what sets Red Notice apart. It’s very hard to get three main stars of the movie myself, Dwayne and Gal in a room together, let alone in a whole movie together. And you leave it to Netflix to figure out some way to do it. I mean, they’re so innovative over there, and they figured out how to master some pretty wildly complex scheduling, and Red Notice had some tricky scheduling issues to meet. So, you know, they did it, though.
Dwayne: I think what makes Red Notice special is the intention, and we really intend to try our best to raise the bar with our action sequences. We are all no stranger to action from Gal with everything she’s done in her career. Myself, Ryan, too, as well. So to try and raise the bar in action sequences is not easy to do. It’s challenging. It’s difficult because there’s a lot of great action out there and a lot of great action storytelling. So it was our intention. I think that really separates us, but also to try to thread the needle of great action with a little bit of levity in every piece of the action. That’s why you’ll see in our movie as heightened as intense as our action sequences are. There’s a lot of great comedy and…
Gal: a lot of style to style that it looks so beautiful.
Ryan’s character Nolan Booth is possessed of the same fast talking, hyper verbal, ironic kind of personality that the actor manufactured for film was in his words, “started as a defense mechanism for anxiety”. What has served so well for mega-hit Deadpool has translated into a performance that seeps into almost every other character Ryan has played since like Free Guy. Even in Red Notice, Reynolds feels like 50 shades of Deadpool. It’s not a critique, the self-effacing, self-depreciating humour is the very essence of his appeal.
Aside from his superhero build, Dwayne has utter charisma. Like Ryan, he too is self-effacing, whether he’s “smouldering” on Jumanji or starring an enemy combatant down in hand-to-hand combat, Dwayne pulls off badass, or jokester with equal aplomb. The range, comedic timing and general humility is part of his greater magnetism.
And then there’s Gal. One recalls seeing Wonder Woman in the theatre in 2017 to the hooting and hollering of women and girls in the audience (and men too shifting uncomfortably and failing) – Gal is the type of gal that appeals to both genders. Equal parts sex symbol and girl-next-door, Gal too is self-effacing, the perfect incarnation of feminist who was equally comfortable in her femininity as she was having a beer with the boys.
Thurber’s script cribs from a compendium of iconic cinematic references to assemble the movie’s scenography. There’s a crowd pleasing “tango” scene ala True Lies, the heist itself plays like a satire on other heist movie tropes, usually subverting expectations but mostly becoming a sarcastic jab if the audience is not clued in. And then of course, the final sequence which could very well spoof Raiders of the Lost Ark. The movie feels like it is an alchemic concoction of everything a human being creating a script from a checklist derived from a computer analysis of the world’s favourite scenes would write. In short, it’s the perfect Christmas movie. Fun enough that it should be on at a party, but bereft of a plot that requires one to pay undue attention to every single plot twist.
Red Notice is an epic, globe trotting heist adventure where no one is as they seem, and no alliance is built to last. That said, the boat scene, is truly unforgettable. It’s no wonder Gal is crowned Israel’s most beautiful woman once a upon a time.