This article contains Red Notice spoilers.
Who ultimately is conning who here? That’s up for debate by the time the credits roll on Netflix’s Red Notice, as the tables turned and turned again between Dwayne Johnson’s John Hartley, Ryan Reynolds’ Nolan Booth, and Gal Gadot’s “The Bishop.” The three characters crossed, double-crossed, and maybe even triple-crossed each other more than once. But when it’s all said and done, they’re each standing on the same boat agreeing to go after another job together.
The film spells out its switchbacks pretty thoroughly, but even so there are just enough twists to leave us with some questions about how it all went down and what happens next. We’ve thus broken it down for you below.
Who is ‘John Hartley?’
John Hartley doesn’t exist. At least not as how we—or Reynolds’ surprisingly gullible thief—came to know him. He’s a construct, a confidence game played by Johnson’s character who reveals he’s one-half of “The Bishop,” which is actually a team of art thieves created by himself and his lover: Gadot’s otherwise nameless character.
It seemed like a self-aware joke when one of the museum security guards tells the Rock that he doesn’t look like an FBI profiler, and Johnson’s character says, “I get that a lot.” But the truth is that he never was a “Johnny Lawman” and it was all a con to get Booth to lead them to the secret location of the third egg of Cleopatra. While some elements of the real Hartley presumably came through his character, such as his utter disdain for Booth’s sarcastic sense of humor and apparently the sob story he told Booth about his criminal father, at the end of the day it was mostly just a lie.
How Hartley Tricked Booth
Hartley manipulated Booth and so many more. At the beginning of the film, audiences are led to loathe Ritu Arya’s Interpol inspector because she believes the Bishop’s obvious framing of the FBI profiler. But as it turns out, Inspector Das was right to not believe Johnson’s puppy dog eyes when he insisted he was being set up. As Das notes in retrospect, it’s easy to pretend to be something you’re not for 72 hours: like a fed.
Gadot’s character claims she hacked into Interpol’s servers to reroute the phone number Das called, causing her to think she was talking to Quantico, but in actuality, Hartley’s papers were forged all along, including of his supposed FBI superior, whose number probably always belonged to Gadot’s character. It also explains why Hartley was so eager to not handcuff Nolan Booth when Das later attempts to arrest them again at the masquerade ball, as well as why he’s happy to shoot at Interpol law enforcement during the climax of the film.
The strained motivation for this con, I suppose, is that the Bishop team knew Nolan Booth would never willingly tell them the location of the third Cleopatra egg. So after getting Nolan arrested by Interpol at the beginning of the movie, Hartley could have himself “framed” by his better half. He then could share a prison cell with Booth (the Bishop likely arranged this since she already had infiltrated that prison with bribes). By breaking out of prison with Booth, and working as a team with him to steal the second egg, Hartley endeared himself enough to at least tag along to collect Cleopatra’s third egg. Which is also why I might believe his sob story about his father being a con man. Hartley only shares that when everything else had failed at gaining Booth’s trust, so he sprinkled in a little bit of the truth with his lies.
This might also explain Gadot’s Bishop’s otherwise pointless double cross of Soto Voce (Chris Diamantopoulos). She poisons his champagne after Nolan claims the third egg is hidden in the Great Pyramid of Giza, but then later claims she never trusted Nolan told her the real location. She probably did believe him in fact—at least enough to burn a bridge with Soto Voce—because she had Hartley tagging along with Nolan as Plan B.
With that said, I still cannot explain why the Bishop told Das about the fugitives being at that masquerade ball, because it only created a needless obstacle for a pair she intended to lead her to the third egg. But I suspect the filmmakers are hoping you don’t think too hard about that!
How Booth Got Back at The Bishop
So we come back to the end of the film where Hartley and the Bishop reveal they’re essentially husband and wife, and he’s been duped. They then leave Nolan for Interpol. Unfortunately for the Bishop pair, Booth has a habit of escaping police custody and this time doesn’t even make it to the Russian prison before he breaks free. His first stab at revenge doesn’t seem to bother the happy couple. Yes, he tips off Das that the stolen eggs—including one being technically a piece of lost Nazi gold—will be at that Egyptian billionaire’s wedding party on that certain night. But since the Bishop already collected their $300 million, they couldn’t care less.
He next hits them where it hurts, however, as he inexplicably finds a way to get Interpol to freeze their Cayman Island bank account. Some Cayman Island financiers freezing the assets of clients who may have collected their wealth through dubious means? Yeah right.
Did Vin Diesel Really Audition for Cats?
It’s the big laugh line of the finale. Dwayne Johnson asks, “You know what I think is funny, Booth?” And Ryan Reynolds replies, “Vin Diesel’s audition tape for Cats. It exists.” It’s a good zinger, but as far as we can tell it does not exist—at least as far as the public record is concerned. With that said, Diesel has revealed in the past he wants to do a musical, possibly even within the Fast and Furious franchise.
When asked by Kelly Clarkson on her talk show if he’d ever consider doing a Fast and Furious show-tapper, Diesel said, “Well, I’m dying to do a musical. Yes, I would. I was this close to doing Guys and Dolls with Steven Spielberg, and we ended up not doing that but I’m dying to do a musical.”
One imagines Reynolds or one of the film’s writers were riffing on that fact, as well as Johnson’s public feud with Diesel after they made four Fast and Furious movies together. Although Johnson told Jess Cagle on his SiriusXM show this week that he did not come up with that joke.
Will There Be a Red Notice 2?
While Red Notice 2 has not been officially announced or greenlit, it sure seems like there’ll be a sequel, no? The movie ends with the three leading characters officially being given “red notices” by Das, and with the trio standing outside the Louvre in Paris, presumably about to start their three-thief job. What could it be? Will they be after the Mona Lisa? Perhaps they’re out to steal the sarcophagus box of Ramesses III after laying claim to Cleopatra’s alleged three eggs? Who knows, but we have a hunch if Netflix has their way, we’ll find out soon enough.