THE STORY – Elite spy Orson Fortune must track down and stop the sale of a deadly new weapons technology wielded by billionaire arms broker Greg Simmonds. Reluctantly teamed up with some of the world’s best operatives, Fortune and his crew recruit Hollywood’s biggest movie star, Danny Francesco, to help them on their globe-trotting mission to save the world.
THE CAST – Jason Statham, Aubrey Plaza, Josh Hartnett, Bugzy Malone, Cary Elwes, Eddie Marsan & Hugh Grant
THE TEAM – Guy Ritchie (Director/Writer), Ivan Atkinson & Marn Davies (Writers)
THE RUNNING TIME – 114 Minutes
Few filmmakers in Hollywood have a filmography as varied as Guy Ritchie; whether it’s slick British gangster films or adaptations of properties such as “Aladdin” or “Sherlock Holmes,” Guy Ritchie always tries to create something different with his projects. Ritchie might not consistently deliver with his projects, but his attempts at toying with new genres are more than admirable. With “Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre”, Ritchie tries to cook up an original laid-back spy film that delivers laughs and action in his well-known signature style. After his delightful take on “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.,” Ritchie’s return to the sleek and stylish world of espionage is something audiences might be ready for. “Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre” was eventually shelved due to the henchmen for the film’s antagonist being of Ukrainian origin. With the war currently undergoing at the Russian/Ukrainian border, it was a cautious albeit reasonable call to make. A year later (now with a U.S. distributor), Ritchie is ready for the world to enjoy “Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre”…or at least attempt to.
The film’s plot is a tale as old as time. An unknown secret weapon (called “The Handle”) has been stolen and is expected to be sold on the black market. The British government has tasked Nathan Jasmine (played by Cary Elwes) with getting back “The Handle,” finding the thief, and stopping it from being sold. Jasmine proceeds to hire Orson Fortune (played by Jason Statham), the best-hired contractor in the world. Knowing the dire situation that beholds them, Jasmine forms a team also consisting of hacker Sara Fidel (Aubrey Plaza) and dependable everyman J.J. Davies (Bugzy Malone). The team also ropes in movie star Danny Francesco (played by Josh Hartnett) to charm their way into billionaire antagonist Greg Simmonds’s inner circle and to save the day. The rest of the film plays out as you would expect.
Statham’s character Orson Fortune (awesome name), embodies every character Statham has played his entire career. With his occasionally charming dry wit, Fortune enjoys spending all of Jasmine’s money on vintage wines and proceeds to kick ass when the situation is called for. Compared to Statham’s more somber performance in Ritchie’s previous film “Wrath of Man,” he gets to let loose here. Statham practically plays a version of Deckard Shaw from the Fast and Furious franchise, but with nowhere near the chemistry of his castmates in this film. There are occasionally fun moments where Statham riffs off Elwes, but it gets played out fairly quickly. Even when Aubrey Plaza is on the screen, there isn’t much she can do to bring life to the film. Plaza mostly abandons the deadpan expressions and humor she is famous for and trades it in for the most half-hearted quips. It most likely has to do with the lazy jokes from the screenplay rather than the abilities of Plaza herself. Even Hugh Grant just phones in a performance amalgamating his previous collaborations with Ritchie. Josh Hartnett is the only cast member who attempts to rise above the lackluster script. He absolutely knows what film he’s in, playing an entitled actor caught up in a world of billionaires and killers. As a result, Hartnett hams it up, often delivering the best of the film’s comedic attempts. Cary Elwes is also quite enjoyable in the movie, but he isn’t doing much if he’s not sharing the screen with Statham or Plaza.
Credit should be given to Ritchie for actually going to real locations to film a spy film that spans multiple countries. You’d be surprised how many action films wouldn’t even attempt to film on location and would settle for a measly green screen instead. Cannes, Madrid, and Morocco are just some of the beautiful locations the team travels through on their journey. Ritchie does attempt to make engaging action set pieces. There’s a car chase involving Plaza and Hartnett that is cool as they drive through a Turkish cliffside. The finale set piece with Statham making his way up a glass tower was enjoyable, although it is hard to make Statham taking down hordes of bad guys unwatchable. Besides those few moments, the action in this film is incredibly lackluster. Compared to the finale heist sequence in “Wrath of Man” or even the assassination attempt on Mathew McConaughey in “The Gentlemen,” this might be some of the worst-directed action in Ritchie’s filmography. It doesn’t help when your action comedy isn’t particularly funny, either. Most of the humor in the film doesn’t land, either. Jokes range from sexual double entendres that aren’t particularly creative to occasional bickering between team members that make up most of the film’s comedic backbone.
By the time you get to the end of “Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre,” you’re just left confused due to the film’s incredibly rushed pacing in the last five minutes to wrap everything up. It felt like about fifteen minutes were cut, but enough time to subtly set up another sequel in case the opportunity was there to make one. If you want to sit back and watch a Guy Ritchie action spy comedy that also stars Hugh Grant, just watch “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.”