Netflix's Big-Budget Action Movie 'Red Notice' Features Some Unabashed Product Placement
The action-comedy starring The Rock and Ryan Reynolds has cameos from both leading men's liquor brands.
Red Notice, the latest aspiring franchise-starter from Netflix, arrives with questions of scale on its mind. In a tweet announcing the film's release date, Dwayne Johnson, the movie's gargantuan-sized star, referred to it as "Netflix's biggest movie ever" and almost all the press surrounding it makes sure to note its massive budget, which is estimated to be close to $200 million. Huge stars, huge action, huge quips, and… huge opportunities to get some product placement for your liquor brand?
Yes, it might not be the first thing you notice about Red Notice if you chose to fire it up on Netflix this weekend—the story follows Johnson's FBI profiler as he teams up with an art thief (Ryan Reynolds) to catch a mysterious con artist (Gal Gadot), and there's plenty of the expected action-adventure hijinks—but the movie features cameo appearances from both Dwayne Johnson's Teremana Tequila Blanco, which launched in 2020, and Ryan Reynolds's Aviation American Gin, which sold to liquor conglomerate Diageo for $610 million in 2020. (That's about three Red Notices.) The product placement is not quite at the Wayne's Worldparody level, but it's not exactly subtle, either.
How does an actor's liquor brand pop up in a $200 million movie? According to Reynolds, when you reach a certain level of fame these opportunities just fall in your lap. "What's funny about the product placement thing is I've done it on a couple of films and then everyone does it for me now," the actor recently said in an interview with Collider. "It was a surprise to me that the effects guys put it way deep in the background in Free Guy. There's a little icon that says 'gratuitous product placement' and it's floating there in the background as an icon. Sometimes it happens and I don't even know."
Again, according to Reynolds, the branded cameo in Red Notice wasn't even his idea. "The one in Red Notice, you can't make this up, you know who suggested it? DJ," he said, referring to Dwayne Johnson by his initials. "DJ was the one who said, 'Let's bring in some Aviation and put it on the table in this scene.' I said sure, great."
Apparently, that's just what friends do. It speaks to the algorithmic smoothness of Red Notice, an unapologetically derivative riff on Indiana Jones, National Treasure, and Ocean's Eleven, that the presence of Johnson and Reynolds' liquor brands scans as an almost personal, intimate touch. The script, penned by director Rawson Marshall Thurber (the filmmaker behind other Rock vehicles like Central Intelligence and Skyscraper), pings from one set-piece to the next with a breezy confidence that quickly grows tiring. It's not thoroughly deflating like some of Netflix's other attempts at big-budget spectacle, like the truly abysmal Bright, but it's missing the lived-in texture and casual wit of the movies it's paying tribute to.
The late critic Gene Siskel used to ask, "Is this film more interesting than a documentary of the same actors having lunch?" With a movie like Red Notice, it's hard not to let your mind wander towards that hypothetical. What would these three actually talk about? Johnson, Reynolds, and Gadot might have some entertaining meals—and, at the very least, there'd be free booze.