'Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre' Review
March 3, 2023
You'll probably spend more time trying to pronounce "Ruse de Guerre" than thinking about the action... or the humor... or the characters... or the actual plot. Much like every entry within writer/director Guy Ritchie's increasingly diverse filmography, Operation Fortune is semi-stylish and entertaining in the moment, offering just enough guns going bang and characters cracking jokes to keep your butt in the seat. But any post-screening test would be immediately failed, as what goes in one ear comes right out the other.
In his fifth collaboration with Ritchie, the most recent being the better-than-expected pandemic-released Wrath of Man, Jason Statham plays... Jason Statham. Technically he plays the comically named Orson Fortune, an ass-kicking, globe-trotting super spy that you'd be hard-pressed to distinguish from at least a dozen of his earlier roles. Fortune has a handler named Nathan (Cary Elwes), who's been tasked with a mission by high command to retrieve a stolen McGuffin named "The Handle," which promises to cause global havoc now that it’s fallen into the wrong hands. Nathan and Fortune aren't alone, as they've assembled a support team including sharp-shooting muscle J.J. (Bugzy Malone, no relation to the famous gangster) and hacker Sarah (Aubrey Plaza).
But no real ruse would be complete without a bit of winking fourth wall breaks, as Josh Harnett plays movie star Danny Francesco, who gets recruited to lure in mega-fan arms dealer Greg Simmonds (Hugh Grant). Even more characters become involved, such as Ukrainian gangsters (who are identified differently by ADR and clumsily edited down to avoid insult to injury with the ongoing war, which was one of the main reasons for the film being pulled from its original January 2022 release date), a rogue British task force, and Silicon Valley tech zillionaires.
There's no time to play catch up within Ritchie's script, which he co-wrote with his usual writing partners Ivan Atkinson and Marn Davies. The nothing-you-haven't-seen-before plot moves forward at an alarming rate, only ever so briefly stopping from time to time to recap what just happened through some hearty exposition.
Ritchie is a confident and competent enough director to make up for most of the nothingness on the page, with some unique camera angles and edited fight sequences being a mini highlight. And Hugh Grant and Aubrey Plaza are chewing the scenery nicely. Their presence does elevate the fun more than the gruffness of Statham. Hartnett's performance may not be of the highest quality, but he's clearly having the most fun in the cast.
In a move usually reserved for James Bond and early MCU movies, Operation Fortune was released overseas before making its way to the states. Normally this would be a small victory for international cinephiles, but in this case, I'd say there are no winners or losers as I'm sure no one will remember what the battle was fought over.