Synopsis: An off-duty SAS soldier must thwart a terror attack on a train running through the Channel Tunnel.
Stars: Sam Heughan, Ruby Rose, Andy Serkis, Tom Wilkinson, Tom Hopper, Hannah John-Kamen, Noel Clarke
Director: Magnus Martens
Running Length: 123 minutes
TMMM Score: (2.5/10)
Review: Do you ever find yourself watching a movie with lauded actors and ask yourself “What are YOU doing in this movie?” It may be a good movie, it may be a bad movie, but the question itself is valid at that moment. What we’re really asking is: Did you do it for the money? Plenty of actors show up in films, television shows, or commercials because of one thing: the payday. While I’d like to net the kind of dough they make on those projects (and so do you!) I wonder if taking on these types of roles makes them enjoy those Caribbean vacations a little less or causes them to stop a few seconds longer at the stoplight in their Tesla pondering why. Ah…who am I kidding. They don’t give it a second thought. Work is work and plenty of people would give their eye teeth to do what they do.
Even though I do believe that, watching SAS: Red Notice, I would have loved to have had a direct line to stars Tom Wilkinson and Andy Serkis to ask them to level with me and admit that they made this one for the money. Both men look positively miserable throughout; Wilknson comes off like he’s about to cry often while Serkis compensates by gritting his teeth so loudly it sounds like a rogue squeaky wheel shopping cart has become another character in the movie. They have every right to look pained, too, because SAS: Red Notice is a total turkey, an absolute howler of film that boasts action scenes almost as flat as the acting and lots of explosions that produce more heat than the main love interests. At one point early on, I thought the film was intended to be a farce in the vein of The Naked Gun because the tone being conveyed was so far off from the Mission: Impossible-esque mood the storyline suggested.
A family of elite assassins, The Black Swans, have been hiding out in London trying to avoid detection and capture for war crimes they were hired to commit by the highest levels of the Queen’s government. Determined to keep their dirty business dealings under wraps, the Prime Minister (Ray Panthaki, Official Secrets) orders his top guy George Clements (Serkis, Long Shot) to take out William Lewis (Wilkinson, The Lone Ranger) and his crew, including his daughter and skilled protégé Grace (Ruby Rose, The Meg). With assistance from SAS soldier Tom Buckingham (Sam Heughan, Bloodshot) the Lewis compound is raided but when their targets slip through their fingers it only leads to more problems for Buckingham and his team.
Waiting to regroup, Buckingham and his doctor girlfriend Sophie (Hannah John-Kamen, Ant-Man and The Wasp) decide to head to Paris for a weekend away but wouldn’t you know it, they’re leaving on the wrong train at the wrong time. Then again, perhaps it is the right train/right time because Grace has infiltrated the speeding railcar, taking the passengers hostage. Threatening to set off a bomb as the train makes it way through the Channel Tunnel between London and Paris, Buckingham is a one-man army onboard as he works his way through a deadly batch of trained killers while his fellow SAS mate Declan Smith (Tom Hopper, Terminator: Dark Fate) tries to help him from London. At the same time, Grace has figured out someone is attempting to stop her and also found the one person on board the train that can be used as a bargaining chip…Sophie.
Based on the first of three books featuring Tom Buckingham written by Andy McNab, the adaptation by Lawrence Malkin features dialogue so silly it’s amazing none of the actors throughout to suggest changing it…or removing it. Hearing Sophie tell a complete stranger about Buckingham carrying around her recently deceased cat might have made a good anecdote in the book but on screen it makes Buckingham look creepy and turns Sophie into one of those women in distress that can only talk about their boyfriends when they aren’t in the room and then spend every moment they are in the room fighting with them. It’s no wonder a number of the characters she winds up talking to make a quick exit (either out of the scene or off the Earth) because who wants to hang around her for too long? Speaking of Buckingham, McNab and Malkin seem to have made him a mixture of Ethan Hunt from M:I and Jack Ryan from Tom Clancy’s novels but, like that tins man in Oz, they forgot to give him a heart. Wait for the scene where Buckingham attempts to emote with complete and total conviction…and try your hardest not to laugh. Not that it helps things that Heughan is an absolute dud dud dudderson as Buckingham, displaying zero charm and negative zero charisma with John-Kamen as his supposed long-time girlfriend.
The only chemistry that is generated is between John-Kamen and Rose in a strange bit of the captive and the captor having a kind of weird unspoken romantic connection. It’s not at all implied and neither actress is strong enough to pull those nuances out of the script or even thin air but it’s some natural instinct given off that makes it feel so. After the action sequences where she doesn’t speak, it’s the only other good thing Rose can be noted for because her acting is frighteningly wooden here. A flash in the pan when she debuted on Orange is the New Black years ago, she hasn’t ever really acquitted herself in the acting department. Even though her fight scenes are well done and she has the appropriate energy and style to pull them off, anytime (absolutely anytime) she’s required to act past that the movie grinds to a dead stop. It’s unfortunate because Rose feels like she could be a star if all the pieces lined up better — there’s a place for her but not at her current level. Not by a long shot.
It’s just a mess of a film across so many areas that fixing one wouldn’t do the trick. When you have none of the actors are on the same page, there can be no dynamic created. It feels like a group of strangers just showed up and were put on film. Much of the movie depends on those pre-existing relationships and without that base, there’s nothing to go off of. Piling about nine endings on in the last ten minutes and then making us wait for the absolute longest aerial pull in I’ve ever seen, SAS: Red Notice can’t even end the movie correctly. Having never read the books (and now having no interest in reading the next two) I can’t know if the jokey style of the film was in response to the source material’s tone or if director Magnus Martens just couldn’t figure out how he wanted his picture to come across. If he wanted action, he got some. If he wanted comedy, he struck gold.