Red Notice, Netflix’s fall craze, came to the streaming service last Friday to a chorus of medium reviews. The global robbery joins Dwayne Johnson as the strong biceps of the law, Ryan Reynolds as a fast-talking art thief and Gal Gadot as a gentle, sophisticated and just a little better art thief, but many critics felt they saw it all. before. There are the healed rewritings of scenes from other better action movies: a dance scene that echoes True Lies; a torture scene that nods to Casino Royale; some stealing Nazi artifacts at the Raiders of the Lost Ark (Reynolds whistles the Indiana Jones theme for that, just in case you missed the reference). The endless, familiar gunfights are absurd due to the fact that no one – on either side – is ever hit by a bullet. Then there is the death-to-death police and robbers plot. As Charlie Kaufman of Nicolas Cage put it in 2002s Adaptation, criticizing his brother’s battle script: “Also, you’re exploring the notion that a police officer and a criminal are really two aspects of the same person. See every police film ever made for other examples of that.”
There is, of course, one important difference between Red Notice and the older generation of hits to which it takes off its cap: they were created to be seen on the big screen, while Red Notice most will be watched on TVs or other, even smaller devices. Considering that Netflix only gave the film a limited, week-long run in a relatively small number of theaters – 750 across the U.S., compared to Marvel’s 4,090 currently projected. Lords – very likely many more people will end up watching Red Notice on their phones than ever had the opportunity to see it on a large scale.
Maybe that helps explain why Red Notice feels like a lack of spectacle. It joins a sad list of largely forgettable Netflix action movies of recent years. Every time they tried to make a hit, they expanded the budget with little visible improvement in quality. The clumsy and formulaic of David Ayer Brilliant (2017), starring Will Smith and Joel Edgerton, cost somewhere in the region of $ 100 million (£ 74 million) to make, for two years later, the absurd. 6 Underground, directed by Michael Bay and also starring Ryan Reynolds, was made with a budget of $ 150 million.
Among them was Triple Border, an action-adventure film with Ben Affleck and Oscar Isaac that cost $ 115 million and about which has already been largely forgotten. When that bombed, rumors began to circulate that Netflix boss Ted Sarandos wanted to reduce the spending spree, though that was soon denied. Obviously, they still want to pull out the checkbook for the right on-screen talent: Red Notice cost about $ 200 million to make, making it the most expensive ever original Netflix production. It was reported that a full $ 70 million of this was spent before a second of footage was even filmed. $ 20 million each went to securing the services of Johnson, Reynolds and Gadot, where an additional $ 10 million flew its way to writer-director Rawson Marshall Thurber. And to think, some critics doubted the ability of this crew to commit theft!
Thurber, who started directing funny, silly comedies like 2004’s Dodgeball and 2013s We are The Millers, later became Johnson’s best collaborator. In 2016, he made the comrade-in-arms combat comedy Central Intelligence with Johnson and Kevin Hart, followed by the derivative, Die Hard– imitating Johnson vehicle Skyscraper in 2018. Both films remade their relatively modest budgets and then some, setting the star / director for Red Notice. But Universal turned down its projected production budget of $ 200 million, leaving Netflix to step in to rain down. What’s striking about Netflix’s powerful move, however, is that it then gave the film such a limited cinema release. The perhaps inevitable result was that the film barely earned $ 1 million at the U.S. box office before going straight to the Netflix homepage. There, at least according to Reynolds and absolutely no verifiable data, it attracted the highest ever number of first-day viewers of the platform for an original film.
The streamer will say, of course, that box office receipts aren’t what it matters to be. For Netflix, making hits with the biggest A-list talent around is a brand-building exercise. More to the point, it’s much better for you to get used to enjoying new movies from the comfort of your couch. If you’re watching a movie on Netflix, probably the next thing you’re going to do is watch another movie on Netflix. If you watch a movie in a movie theater, out there in the unpredictable real world, God knows what you might do next. You could end up at dinner, or in a bar, or even outside enjoying your surroundings! It may be hours before you next watch Netflix. The terror.
You can almost understand the logic from their point of view. However, the question of $ 200 million remains: whether to allow movies like Red Notice spending more time there in the world – finding an audience and helping struggling cinemas along the way – does it really do so much to damage the most important numbers of Netflix subscribers? After all, there is a precedent in the Sky Movies model of film production that allowed for appropriate theatrical runs while still ensuring that they acquired exclusive broadcasting rights when the films went to the small screen.
Having the opportunity to see a movie for the first time in the cinema can also change the way you feel about it forever. I still have fond memories of seeing Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull in the cinema, although it is objectively about as medium an action film as Red Notice turned out to be. Cinemas rely on bad hits as much as they do good ones, and they also add value to movies on a show level that your TV can never measure. If Netflix wants its hits to stay in the memory, it should start by sticking them on the big screen.