(CLICK HERE to read my full review in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette)
You never know what to expect from a Guy Ritchie movie. He’s had a career full of ups and downs yet he’s always managed to find work, often helming major big-budget projects with varying degrees of success (2017’s “King Arthur: Legend of the Sword” is said to have lost Warner Bros. over $150 million while 2019’s live-action “Aladdin” grossed over $1 billion worldwide for Disney). And Ritchie seems to have no trouble drawing familiar names to his big star-studded ensembles.
Such is the case with his latest, “Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre”, a Guy Ritchie movie through and through. It’s a film that features what fans like about his movies as well as what frustrates his detractors. How much mileage you get out it will probably depend on which side you fall on. I tend to be a fence-straddler when it comes to Ritchie so it’s no surprise I landed smack in the middle of this lightweight yet entertaining enough action comedy.
Co-written by the trio of Ritchie, Ivan Atkinson, and Marn Davies, the story revolves around a stolen device called “The Handle”. It’s believed that a billionaire arms dealer named Greg Simmonds (a delightfully droll Hugh Grant) is set to broker a deal between the Ukrainian mobsters who stole the device and a mystery buyer. The British government tasks Nathan Jasmine (Carl Elwes) with identifying the buyer and keeping “The Handle” from getting to the open market.
Nathan calls on elite secret agent Orson Fortune (Jason Statham) who reluctantly agrees to head a covert team. Joining him is an unproven yet supremely confident tech whiz, Sarah Fidel (Aubrey Plaza) and a super-serious sharpshooter, J.J. Davies (rapper Bugzy Malone). After learning that Simmonds is hosting a huge charity event in Cannes, the team blackmails his favorite Hollywood movie star Danny Francesco (Josh Hartnett) into helping them infiltrate the gala.
But of course not everything goes as smoothly as planned and in movies like this there always seems to be a fly in the ointment. For Orson and his team it’s a former agent named Mike (Peter Ferdinando) who has been hired by a rival intelligence agency to retrieve “The Handle”. He’s like a pimple that won’t go away, and he always seems one step ahead of them.
As with any good spy movie, there are some twists, turns, and revelations along the way, although not nearly as many as you might expect. In fact, much of “Operation Fortune” is pretty straightforward and it packs very few surprises. There is plenty of globe-trotting though, with stops being made in Madrid, Cannes, Antalya, Doha, and more. Some seem to be thrown in just for show. But Ritchie gets a lot out of other locations.
As far as the cast goes, they all help make this fairly tame cocktail a little tastier. As always, Statham makes for a charismatic antihero while constantly reminding us that he can genuinely act. Plaza brings her signature weirdness (and I say that as a compliment), giving the movie an offbeat kick. Hartnett is a really good tag-along goof. And a waggish Grant steals as many scenes as he chews up.
“Operation Fortune” sticks to a pretty conventional formula, and it’s obvious that Ritchie is mainly interested in making easy to consume, soft-serve entertainment. There’s nothing here you haven’t seen variations of before, and there’s even less that will stick with you after the credits roll. Ritchie seems perfectly fine with that. To his credit, he doesn’t pretend to be making something innovative or original. He’s completely honest about what he’s going for and content with how it turns out.
Still, while Ritchie’s well-worn bag of tricks keeps him (and his film) firmly planted in his comfort zone, there is fun to be had with this by-the-books spy romp. Everyone on screen seems to be having a good time which turns out to be contagious. This is essentially Guy Ritchie doing his own Bond movie. It may be light on thrills, but there’s no shortage of the filmmaker’s energy and style. We get a couple of good action scenes and a few lighthearted chuckles here and there. And while it’s not very filling, it’s well-paced, meaning we spend more time enjoying ourselves than scrutinizing the silliness of it all. “Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre” opens in theaters today (March 3rd).
Looking forward to this when it hits Amazon/Netflix! Hartnett & Statham, a complete swoonfest for me, damn the plot!
While I don’t know if he would fall into swoon territory, don’t forget Hugh Grant. He is a legit scene-stealer.
Guy Ritchie is hit/miss with me though I do appreciate it when he gets actors doing something out of their comfort zone like Hugh Grant who seems to enjoy working with him.
Exactly. Very hit/miss. But his movies have a certain fun factor to them. And your so right about pulling actors out of their comfort zone. And Grant is an absolute delight. You’ll get a kick out of him.
I liked this movie.
It’s a pretty fun 2 hours.