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OPINION | REVIEW: ‘Operation Fortune: Ruse de guerre' lightweight yet entertaining enough

by KEITH GARLINGTON Special to the Democrat-Gazette | March 3, 2023 at 1:31 a.m.
Urbane professional tough guy Orson Fortune (Jason Statham), movie star Danny Francesco (Josh Hartnett) and tech wiz Sarah Fidel (Aubrey Plaza) seek to recover a mysterious but dangerous device from a gun-running billionaire in Guy Ritchie’s “Operation Fortune: Ruse de guerre.”

A Guy Ritchie Film -- those four words can elicit all sorts of feelings.

Simply put, you never know what to expect from one of his movies. After starting strong with two critical and commercial successes (1998's "Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels" and 2000's "Snatch"), Ritchie's career took a dive with his widely panned "Swept Away" starring his then-wife Madonna. Two more stinkers followed before he struck gold with 2009's "Sherlock Holmes." Since then it's fair to say Ritchie's career has been a roller-coaster ride of ups and downs.

Still Ritchie has 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 of 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.

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85 Cast: Jason Statham, Aubrey Plaza, Hugh Grant, Josh Hartnett, Cary Elwes, Bugzy Malone, Eddie Marsan, Tim Seyfi, Peter Ferdinando

Director: Guy Ritchie

Rating: R

Running time: 1 hour, 54 minutes

Playing theatrically


Print Headline: ‘Operation Fortune: Ruse de guerre’


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