Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre is the latest film from stylish director Guy Ritchie. Although known much more for his British gangster flicks, with Operation Fortune he takes another stab at the world of action-comedy spy films.
In a story which treads some familiar ground, a team of special agents are assembled under the eye of Nathan Jasmine (Cary Elwes). Their task is to discover where this secret weapon is, who has it, and what it even does!
The capable although extremely costly Orson Fortune (Jason Statham) is joined by computer specialist Sarah Fidel (Aubrey Plaza), and point man JJ Davies (Bugzy Malone). Soon, they learn that the sale of this superweapon is being brokered by Greg Simmonds (Hugh Grant), a corrupt billionaire with a man-crush on Hollywood action star Danny Francesco (Josh Hartnett). Using Francesco as a ticket into Simmonds’ world, Fortune and crew aim to intercept the sale before competing agents can beat them to the prize.
While I do consider myself quite a fan of Ritchie‘s work, his output has been a little hit and miss for me. Many of his gangster films are classics, he surprised me with an inventive twist on Sherlock Holmes and the uncharacteristically dark Wrath of Man remains my favourite film of 2021. However, both his attempted franchise starters King Arthur and The Man From UNCLE fell totally flat.
Operation Fortune lies somewhere in the middle, neither blowing me away nor being altogether unwatchable. While Ritchie’s former producer Matthew Vaughn found success with the raunchy Kingsman trilogy, little is done to give Operation Fortune more edge than your average action film. Ritchie’s stylish editing can still be seen throughout, such as his trademark non-linear storyline. This doesn’t truly enhance the film like it did with Sherlock Holmes, however, it is just Ritchie being Ritchie for the sake of it.
A few more bursts of action, especially in the films middle act, would help greatly. There are only so many times you can watch these characters covertly sneak in and out before it becomes redundant. In fact, the charade of ‘an agent standing in as a contact for a meeting’ plays out more than once. A tighter script would elevate its characters which are the film’s greatest asset.
Josh Hartnett is a little underused as the actor out of his element in this world of spycraft. Although I loved it when Francesco is forced to go ‘fast and furious’ relying on his ability to do his own stunt driving in the film’s action-packed chase sequence.
Aubrey Plaza and Jason Statham have great chemistry on-screen and much of the film’s comedy comes from their characters’ butting heads. The same can be said between Jason Statham and Cary Elwes as Jasmine. Elwes’ character tries his best to reel in the lavish lifestyle and expense account of Orson Fortune.
But Operation Fortune’s standout is Hugh Grant as the deliciously sleazy black-market dealer, Simmonds. You can’t help but love his smarminess from his first scene as he recounts an anecdote about someone who has ‘the funny type of cancer’.
Statham doesn’t have the greatest range as an actor but that is perfectly fine. He is a charismatic action movie star, and he carries the film well. Unfortunately, here he is lacking an antagonist to truly play off. Whether it be Bond, John Wick, Ethan Hunt, John McClane, or Orson Fortune, a strong hero needs a strong villain. As great as Hugh Grant is, he doesn’t fit the bill. Rival agent Mike (Peter Ferdinando) and his team are kept too far in the rear of the storyline to be truly menacing, only popping up as the plot needs them to, which is a pity.
Ritchie and Statham’s fifth collaboration Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre is a standard action comedy that could have been much more. Featuring perhaps a few too many sub-plots which distract from its core narrative and major strengths. However, with a strong cast of characters, some great humour, and explosive action, this film still makes for a hell of a fun night at the movies.