What do you get when you put together Deadpool, Wonder Woman, and The Rock? A fun heck of a ride. The thing that stands out most about art heist movie Red Notice, is the very palpable, easy chemistry between the three co-stars — that’s before we even delve into a genre that’s already very well-loved by Netflix fans, judging from series such as Money Heist and Lupin. Why is this relevant, you ask? That’s because this blockbuster-style movie is original Netflix content, and airs on the streaming platform from 12 November.
The title of the movie refers to Interpol’s highest-level “most wanted” warrant, and Red Notice wastes no time in getting its characters into place — Dwayne Johnson stars as FBI’s top profiler John Hartley, who’s then forced to team up with semi-nemesis art thief Nolan Booth (Ryan Reynolds), in order to nab the world’s most wanted art thief, “The Bishop”, played by Gal Gadot.
Directed and written by Rawson Marshall Thurber (Central Intelligence, Skyscraper), many action-packed sequences ensue in the trio’s globe-trotting adventure, which take them from a Russian prison to a South American jungle, while the show packs just as much comedy and wit into its almost two hour run-time. It’s also said to have cost US$200 million (S$269 mil), which makes it one of Netflix’s most expensive films to date.
Our take? Avoid disappointment by thinking of this as big-budget, popcorn action fare. Some early critics have panned its lack of substance, but to be fair, its tone is sufficiently slick and fun that we wouldn’t rule it out for a “brainless” Friday night in — sometimes, there are only so much true crime dramas you can take.
Of the movie’s light-hearted tone, Johnson has this to say: “We 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, that as heightened and intense as our action sequences are, there’s a lot of great comedy.”
Reynolds is, no surprise, his usual Deadpool wisecracking persona, who plays off Johnson’s more serious but charismatic role, for a natural buddy cop dynamic that feels believable. Gadot gets to display more of her athletic prowess and disarming smile, and further proves that she can kick ass when up against her male co-stars. Still, it’s here that she sheds her do-gooder Wonder Woman image for a character “who’s a bit different than what I usually used to do”, she says at a recent Asia-Pacific press conference.
Red Notice banks on the stars’ off-screen chemistry too, now easily accessible onscreen, which is something Reynolds was excited about. “If you come to dinner with Dwayne and I, you will see we quite literally talk to each other the way we talk to each other in Red Notice. And it’s pretty funny to be around, and it’s just kind of the way it’s always been for us. So putting that up on the screen was a real pleasure,” he shares.
“The movie is big. It’s fun, it’s ambitious with some twists and turns and surprises, and we had a great time,” continues Johnson. Gadot chimes in: “I think that the wit and the funny moments are very fun — and the boys are in the movie. So what else can one ask for?” It’s pretty hard to disagree with that.
Ahead, we hear more from stars Ryan Reynolds, Gal Gadot, and Dwayne Johnson on what sets the heist movie apart from others of its kind, as well as their most memorable scenes (no spoilers!) and some behind-the-scenes anecdotes.
What made you interested in Red Notice?
Ryan Reynolds: “You know, honestly, this is the cheapest answer, that I was most interested in working with my friends, with my pals. I love the fact that I got to just, show. 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. 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.”
There’s a lot of chemistry between you and your co-stars in the movie — would you say that it’s the same way off-screen as well?
RR: “What Netflix really wanted was 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 wanted that on the big screen and for 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. If you come to dinner with Dwayne and I, you will see we quite literally talk to each other the way we talk to each other in Red Notice. And it’s pretty funny to be around, and it’s just kind of the way it’s always been for us. So putting that up on the screen was a real pleasure.”
What sets Red Notice apart from other heist shows and films?
RR: “I think it’s the trio. 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.”
What about your character’s personality do you love the most?
RR: “I love his mischief, I love that he’s a rascal. You never can, can’t ever trust him, so I always love a character that you can’t really relax on, have to kind of stay on edge with. And Nolan is certainly a guy that fits that bill.”
Without giving away too much, what would you say was the most interesting scene to film for you?
RR: “There’s a sequence in the chapel in the prison where we meet Gal’s character, The Bishop, for the first time — and it was the first time all three of us had shot together in one room. That was exciting and a lot of fun for us, and the whole kind of scene was like a chess game. Everybody was sort of sizing each other up. Gal was so gifted at being so charming and funny and easy in the scene where, you know, when we watched her as Wonder Woman or some of her other roles, she’s usually playing sort of authoritative kind of characters. So to see her be like a Cary Grant in this moment was really fun for me.”
Which one of the three of you is the best fighter, and who do you think is the weakest?
RR: “Tough question. I would say that it’s a toss up between Dwayne and I as the weakest only because Gal is very elegant, very flexible and clearly has some significant training in this. Now, Dwayne will kill you if he gets his hands on you, but the thing that I know is that I’m faster than Dwayne. So if I say something that goes a little bit too far, I always know that I can run away. I’m not a fighter. I’m mostly, you know, a bit of a chicken. So you’ll see in the movie, I usually try to avoid the fights as much as possible and stick to the stealing.”
The Ryan Reynolds brand of comedy is unmistakable. How similar or different is this from your off-screen persona?
RR: “You know, my off screen persona is actually vastly different. As a kid, and as an adult, I’ve always struggled with anxiety and the sort of fast-talking, hyper-verbal, ironic kind of personality that I’ve manufactured for film really started as a defense mechanism. When I was younger, to kind of get through situations where I felt like I was ill-equipped to deal with something, I would have that part of my personality take over and kind of run the show for me. And that’s something I’m grateful for, but it’s also something, I think, at a young age, I wish I didn’t need. But so, yeah, the real me is much, much different than that, a lot more sensitive. I probably listen a lot better than the characters I play as well.”
What does humour and wit mean to you, and why do you prefer those kinds of roles?
RR: “I think humour and wit in movies are by-products of personal pathos. You can’t really have any understanding of the dynamics of comedy unless you sort of understand its opposite. I do see comedy as an under-appreciated medium in the film business, not to be quoting Shakespeare or anything, but the idea that death is easy comedy is hard. 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 the Steve Martins, Eddie Murphys, John Candys of the world, the Gene Wilders. Those are people that I’m hugely influenced by and have shaped me in a lot of different ways.”
What made you interested in Red Notice?
Gal Gadot: “Dwayne. [laughs] No, but to be honest, 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. And I was also very intrigued to be able to play a character who’s a bit different than what I usually used to do.
I think that Rawson again did an amazing job writing the script and directing this movie, I think that he really managed to re-engineer this type of heist movies. There is so much, so much to it. He managed to make it his own while taking inspiration from different movies from the past. The twists and turns are super smart and strong, and I think that the wit and the funny moments are very fun — and the boys are in the movie. So what else can one ask for?”
What was the most interesting scene to film?
GG: “I mean, there are so many delightful moments and scenes that we got to work on together in the film, but one of the most memorable ones was the first time that I got to shoot with the boys, with D.J. [Dwayne Johnson] and Ryan. It was in the Russian prison and it was such a funny day, 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.”
There’s a dancing scene in the movie, with Dwayne Johnson. How did it feel to dance with The Rock?
GG: “I’ll tell you the truth. I was a bit nervous at the beginning just because, you know DJ is a giant man and I have feet down there, so I wasn’t sure what was going to happen. And I kept telling DJ, we’re going to practice, we’re going to rehearse. He was super cool, kept on calming me down and saying, don’t worry, this is going to be great. And of course, that just made me more nervous. But then he showed up, and this guy is a freaking ballerina! I don’t know how it works with physics rules and all that, but he’s so talented and such a good dancer.”
You’re known for playing Wonder Woman, and she’s a paragon for all that is good. What is it like to be on the other side and taking up a villainous role?
GG: “It’s actually a lot of fun. As an actor, you want to be able to explore different colours and different qualities in the characters that you play. And this one certainly gave me this opportunity and I super enjoy portraying The Bishop.”
How was it like working together with Ryan Reynolds and Gal Gadot?
Dwayne Johnson: “I thought it was great. You know, we wanted to make a great movie, and a lot of times with something like this, the content of the script really will dictate what the set is going to feel like. The movie is big. It’s fun, it’s ambitious with some twists and turns and surprises, and we had a great time. We also had to buckle down because we shot it during COVID, so that was very challenging, but we all rallied together, including our crew of about a thousand crew members, and we made the best movie we could.”
How about working with Rawson Marshall Thurber for the third time, was there anything new or different this time?
DJ: It’s great working with Ross, and I think the only thing that is new and different is just he’s grown really tremendously, and you can see that in his writing, in his execution of these movies. And I’ve worked with Rawson for three times in a row, and I knew, for example, that Gal was going to meet with him, and I know Gal for many, many years too, so I really felt they would get along nicely.”
Many fans are excited to see your intense action scenes. What makes the action sequences in Red Notice special?
DJ: “I think what makes them special is their 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 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 we also 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, that as heightened and intense as our action sequences are, there’s a lot of great comedy.”
How was filming with Netflix different compared to working with other media?
DJ: “When you work with a streaming platform, the process is still the same because you still want to make the movie and we’re all in the business together, so everybody is used to working with each other, regardless of whether it’s for a studio with a theatrical release or Netflix with a streaming platform release. But the, I think one of the unique differences is there is when, when it’s time for the movie, the marketing rush is a bit different because you’re not feeling the pressure of opening box office weekend. There’s a little bit of room and space that you have that you wouldn’t otherwise have.”
RED NOTICE, OUT ON NETFLIX FROM friday, 12 november 2021.