*. SAS: Red Notice was, I believe, meant to be the launch of a film franchise dealing with the adventures of an SAS operative named Tom Buckingham. Or Thomas William Buckingham III to give him his proper posh title. Because this guy is rich, owning luxury estates all over the world that he goes to relax at after saving the world. Which is very silly, but it was the only interesting thing about him.
*. Tommy Bucks is the creation of author Andy McNab (a pen name). I haven’t read anything by McNab but apparently this is the kind of thing he does. He’s written three Buckingham novels and something like twenty starring an agent called Nick Stone. Yes, Nick Stone! The Nick Stone books have titles like Brute Force, Exit Wound, Dead Centre, and Cold Blood. I’m not making any of this up!
*. I hope that gives you some idea of how deathly unoriginal Red Notice is. Buckingham is played here by Sam Heughan, who is very masculine and can act a bit. He’s rumoured to be in the running to be the next Bond, which would make this film a calling card. But he’s not really the star here. That would be Ruby Rose, who isn’t much of an actor but who does have star power.
*. Rose is playing the villain, a mercenary named Grace that the Brits first hired to do their dirty work abroad and then turned against. Grace isn’t having any of that, so she decides to hijack a train as it’s going through the Chunnel as a way of getting her own back.
*. Well, when Grace and her team of operatives hijack that train, who do you think is on it? Tommy Bucks! Because he’s on the way to Paris to propose to his doctor fiancé, Sophie. As I mentioned in my notes on Olympus Has Fallen, every he-man has to have a girlfriend/wife who is a doctor or nurse because the roles complement each other. As Sophie says here, “He takes lives, I save them.” Yes, that’s the level of the dialogue.
*. Another thing I said about Olympus Has Fallen is that it was Die Hard in the White House. Well, SAS: Red Notice is Die Hard in the Chunnel. I thought that seemed original enough, but the Chunnel had already been showcased in Mission: Impossible as long ago as 1996. And once you get on the train we might as well be watching The Taking of Pelham One Two Three. It’s just another subway full of hostages.
*. So James Bond/Bruce Wayne/Mike Banning/John McClane/Thomas William Buckingham III has to save the day, while his buddies in the SAS try to do their thing on the outside. Except Grace has some tricks up her sleeve (of course) and not everybody in the Special Air Service is a good guy. Some of them are even “snides.” I’d never heard the word “snide” used like this before. I guess it’s a Britishism and just means a traitor.
*. I was actually surprised at how negative a light the SAS is cast in. They are deeply compromised, with more rotten apples than good firm fruit in the basket. In fact, Tom might be the last hero they’ve got, and even he’s not squeaky clean. Apparently McNab also wrote a non-fiction book on psychopathy entitled The Good Psychopath’s Guide to Success, wherein he claims that he exhibits many psychopathic traits. So don’t be surprised by Grace telling Tom at the end how much alike the two of them are. Not that you should be surprised by a line like that anyway. I mean, even Tom’s fiancé is on board with his getting his nasty on.
*. As an aside, I couldn’t help but think that Rose and Heughan had a lot more chemistry together than Heughan did with his fiancé. I almost thought for a second that they were going to kiss at the end when facing off instead of fighting to the death. Unfortunately, Tom is the only squeaky clean (that is, psychopathic but non-snide) member of the SAS. This is the kind of guy who was born to marry a doctor.
*. Whenever I’m sitting through one of these formulaic efforts I start wondering about the oddest things. Like beards. The Prime Minister in this movie is a deeply compromised fellow played by Ray Panthaki and he has a very full and dark beard. This threw me off so much I had trouble at first understanding that he was in fact playing the prime minister. Who was the last British prime minister to have a beard? The last U.S. president? Answers to come! But you’ll have to keep reading!
*. You know how this all plays out. Grace soon twigs to the fact that she’s got a problem in the person of Tom. Or, as she puts it, “There’s a player in the battle space. He is skilled and dangerous.” People try to get to Tom but he makes short work of them. And he also saves a little girl.
*. The little girl business bothered me. I couldn’t understand why Tom was spending so much time worrying about her when the whole train was full of hostages in need of saving. But getting the girl to safety allows him to have a long conversation (in French) on the roof of the train, where Tom confesses to her (the little girl) that he finally realizes how much he loves Sophie and wants to marry her in Paris. Which is sweet, and absolutely ridiculous in context. One would have thought Tom had more important things to worry about at the moment.
*. Of course Grace soon twigs to the fact that Tom’s girlfriend is also on the train so she uses her to get to him and that works out about as you’d expect. I think the only surprise was that they blew up the Chunnel at the end. I mean, they really blow the whole damn thing up. Usually in movies like this the bomb gets defused with 007 left on the timer.
*. There’s a final fight, and credit has to be given to Ruby Rose for actually selling us on the idea that she can hold her own against these big beefy guys when seems quite frail and petite (she also went toe-to-toe with John Wick in Chapter Two of that franchise). Then we get a long and very dull coda that allows for some cute end credits being slipped in before leaving us on a cliffhanger. Tom and Sophie get married at his palatial estate in Mallorca (it’s not a luxury resort but one of his personal homes, the Buckingham Villa!). Then just as they’re exchanging vows the phone rings. The world needs Tom to get back in the saddle and take out the one bad guy who gets away at the end of this movie! Will he accept? Stay tuned! They may make a franchise out of Tommy Bucks yet!
*. SAS: Red Notice is not a bad movie, but it’s also one I can’t think of anything nice to say about. We’ve been here many times before and there’s nothing new or interesting going on. Heughan makes a likeable enough hero and even keeps his shirt on throughout. Rose projects some attitude. Andy Serkis’s character left me scratching my head. I couldn’t figure out what was going on at the SAS, to be honest. There weren’t any fights or stunts that impressed me, but at the same time nothing really substandard either. Just more of the same.
*. OK, I know you’ve only read this far so you can get the answer to the trivia question I posed earlier. Who was the last British PM to have a beard (at least in office)? When I asked myself this question the only person I could think of was Salisbury. So I did a bit of looking around and . . . I think I was right! Robert Gascoyne-Cecil, 3rd Marquess of Salisbury was prime minister off and on from 1885 to 1902. It’s been over a hundred years without a bearded PM! In the U.S., the last bearded president was Benjamin Harrison, who was in office at the same time, 1889-1893. If you wanted to be a leader on the world stage at that time, beards were a must!