Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre review

Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre review – Guy Ritchie’s big, breezy spy caper

A spirited cast, including Jason Statham and Aubrey Plaza, help deliver a fun time in Guy Ritchie’s slick and silly action comedy

After briefly disappearing into the Hollywood machine, steering IP-based franchises rather than creating his own films, Guy Ritchie is having something of a Shyamalan-esque B-movie reinvention. The big-budget bloat of Aladdin, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword and The Man from Uncle (fondly remembered by some but wisely forgotten by most) has gone and, instead, there’s a renewed sense of purpose, a returned vitality that had gone missing. While the director has not exactly regressed to his roots per se, he has focused more on what he does well rather than what pays him well, from having a boss to being the boss.

While The Gentlemen might not have been quite the riot Ritchie seemed to think it was, 2021’s brooding revenge thriller Wrath of Man delivered an effectively arresting jolt to the system and he’s re-teamed with star Jason Statham for his latest, the absurdly titled yet absurdly enjoyable Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre. It’s got a bit of a cursed backstory – it was shot during Covid, later renamed (it was originally called Five Eyes, blander but better), then yanked off the release schedule twice in early 2022 due to fears over Ukrainian baddies seeming in bad taste, sold from STX to Lionsgate early this year and now being released, nay dumped, a few weeks later (it will go straight to Amazon Prime in the UK) – all of which belies a rather sleekly entertaining little romp, the light to Wrath of Man’s dark.

It’s a sprightly, R-rated crib of both the Mission: Impossible and 007 movies, giving us exactly what we expect and demand of such formula from glamorous, sun-kissed international locations to niftily choreographed action set pieces, nothing we haven’t seen before and won’t see again but done with just enough playful ebullience for it to go down smoothly. It’s less of a vodka martini and more of a beer with a shot of tequila.

Statham, an often underutilised comedic actor, is Orson Fortune, a rebellious, wine-loving spy enlisted by Nathan Jasmine (a refreshingly major role for Cary Elwes) to help retrieve some mysterious MacGuffin that’s been stolen by Ukrainian mobsters. He’s paired with two other operatives (Aubrey Plaza and Mancunian rapper Bugzy Malone) and sent after lecherous arms dealer Greg Simmonds (Hugh Grant) to prevent it from falling into even wronger hands. To aid their mission, they recruit Greg’s favourite actor Danny Francesco (Josh Hartnett), hoping he might help them lie their way into his inner circle.

It’s all mercifully silly and refreshingly avoidant of a particularly annoying brand of wink, wink smugness that often infects contemporary action movies, many of which Statham himself has starred in. His lovable rogue here is a little run of the mill but he can do this shtick in his sleep and one feels like the guiding hand of Ritchie has woken him up a bit, giving his performance a welcome dose of energy.

As entertaining as he is though, it’s Plaza who secures the majority of our attention, convincingly auditioning for her own action franchise, one that might give her a little more to play with. She works hard at elevating her lines, too many of which could, and should, have been sharper on the page, the dialogue from Ritchie and co-writers/frequent collaborators Marn Davies and Ivan Atkinson needing a few too many punch-ups here and there. But the good time she’s clearly having is increasingly infectious and while it’s been a pleasure to see her excel in smaller or at least more substantive projects of late, this is a strong play for more multiplex work.

There’s arguably a little too much going on for the film to move quite as nimbly as it always should, notably Hartnett’s underdeveloped action star whose relationship with Grant’s nefarious billionaire feels like a halfhearted homage to The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent. It’s slick in one moment and a little too scrappy the next but Ritchie’s puppyish insistence that you have as much as fun as his stars is hard to resist. The film’s bizarrely reticent rollout might have already killed any chance of further operations but there have been far, far worse franchise-starters in recent years.

  • Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre is out now in US and Australian cinemas and on Amazon Prime in the UK on 7 April

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