SAS: Red Notice (2 stars)

SAS: Red Notice

Sam Heughan is a more than capable action man in an unsubtle thriller, co-starring Andy Serkis and Ruby Rose

Based on the novel by ex-military man Andy McNab, which draws on the author's own experiences as a psychopath, SAS: Red Notice had the potential to bring some insight and authenticity to the table. But if the outlandish, corruption-heavy hijinks make it difficult to take seriously, there's fun to be had in how hilariously unsubtle it all is, and in watching a credible cast camp it up in a story where absolutely no-one is to be trusted.

As special forces operative Tom Buckingham, Sam Heughan (Outlander, Bloodshot, the recent To Olivia) is a staunchly capable action hero, as he continues to ratchet up some relevant experience in possible preparation for Bond (he auditioned for the role when Daniel Craig was cast and was seen as favourite as recently as last year). He's flanked by Ant-Man and the Wasp's Hannah John-Kamen, as Tom's doctor girlfriend Sophie, who he is planning on proposing to during a trip to Paris. What Tom wasn't banking on was a gang of mercenaries known as the Black Swans – led by Grace Lewis (Ruby Rose), daughter of the dastardly William (Tom Wilkinson) – hijacking their train mid-Channel Tunnel.

Director Magnus Martens (who has directed episodes of Fear the Walking Dead, Luke Cage, and Agents of SHIELD) is clearly going for crowd-pleasing as he combines elements from Bond (trained killer Tom's romance with Sophie evokes Bond and Vesper in Casino Royale) and, of course, Die Hard. Andy Serkis brings some big actor energy to a ruthless army fixer, who previously hired the Black Swans to clear out a Georgian village to make way for a gas pipeline at the behest of the Prime Minister (Ray Panthaki). Rose is a better baddie than she was in John Wick 2 at least; she has some swagger but her portrayal is still pretty one-note and largely limited to angrily narrowing her eyes.

Although its relationship to reality is largely lost – and the pointed political commentary is undermined by Laurence Malkin's crude and cliched script – Red Notice derives reasonable tension from the confines and intense jeopardy of the scenario. Perhaps it's for the best that the film has ended up debuting on TV, as there are evident budgetary and creative constraints that means it feels more akin to a Spooks-level production than something truly spectacular and big-screen-worthy. But those craving action might find this does the job until cinemas are back up and running.

Available to watch on Sky Cinema from Fri 12 Mar.

SAS: Red Notice

  • 2 stars
  • 2021
  • UK
  • 2h 3min
  • Directed by: Magnus Martens
  • Written by: Laurence Malkin, Andy McNab
  • Cast: Sam Heughan, Ruby Rose, Andy Serkis, Tom Wilkinson, Hannah John-Kamen, Tom Hopper, Noel Clarke
  • UK release: 12 March 2021

After taking over the Eurostar, a group of expert mercenaries aim to blow up the channel tunnel but come up against an ex-Special Forces solider.