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‘Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre’ Review: Jason Statham and Audrey Plaza in Guy Ritchie’s Tired Action Comedy



It’s pretty easy to tell that Guy Ritchie’s new action comedy has been sitting on the shelf for a while. After all, its villains include Ukrainian gangsters. Not that there aren’t still gangsters in Ukraine, but let’s just say the timing isn’t ideal.

The film’s title provides a hint of its dumbness. Sure, the use of a French phrase is impressive. But the “Fortune” in Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre doesn’t refer to the name of the mission, but rather the leading character, a mercenary secret agent named Orson Fortune, played by Jason Statham. It could have been worse. If he were still playing his character from Crankthe film would have been called Operation Chev Chelios.

Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre

The Bottom Line

To call it formulaic would be insulting to formulas.

Release date: Friday, March 3
Cast: Jason Statham, Aubrey Plaza, Josh Hartnett, Cary Elwes, Bugsy Malone, Hugh Grant
Director: Guy Ritchie
Screenwriters: Guy Ritchie, Ivan Atkinson, Marn Davies

Rated R, 1 hour 54 minutes

If this seems like a digression, it’s because there’s not a lot to say about this effort for which the word “derivative” must have been invented. The story involves the theft of a deadly, world-threatening weapon called “The MacGuffin” (I kid), which Fortune has been hired to retrieve by a constipated-looking British operative (Cary Elwes) and his even more constipated-looking superior ( Eddie Marsan, deserving better).

To fulfill his mission, which requires lots and lots of international travel — the locations are helpfully identified via onscreen graphics apparently designed for the geography-challenged, such as “London, England” — Fortune recruits a team consisting of technology expert Sarah Fidel (Aubrey Plaza) and, well, something expert JJ Davies (rapper Bugzy Malone, who also appeared in Ritchie’s The Gentlemen).

The trio set out on their mission, which involves a lot of flights on luxurious private jets stocked with ultra-expensive bottles of wine provided because Fortune apparently suffers from claustrophobia, which is about as character-defining as the film gets. To find the weapon, they must insinuate themselves with an uber-wealthy arms dealer, Greg Simmonds, played by Hugh Grant, sporting a cockney accent and oversized tinted glasses that Irving “Swifty” Lazar would have deemed too gaudy. To that end, they enlist the services of a Hollywood action movie star (Josh Hartnett, embracing the trend of thespian self-mockery) of whom Simmonds is a huge fan.

The frequent globe-trotting is interrupted by numerous car chases, gun fights and hand-to-hand combat scenes demonstrating that Statham still has the martial arts skills to easily dispatch any stunt doubles who cross his path. As usual, neither he nor his character seems to take pleasure in their work, his range of emotions ranging from controlled irritation to outright annoyance. Even when drinking that fine wine, Fortune acts like he’d rather be anywhere else. James Bond, he’s not, unless you count Timothy Dalton’s interpretation of the role.

And Bond seems to be what Ritchie is going for with this overly convoluted, barely comprehensible spy thriller that fails to generate any excitement in its action scenes and becomes too talky by far. Some of the dialogue is fun, especially as delivered by Plaza, who amusingly always seems to be commenting on the outlandish proceedings even while taking part in them. And now that Grant’s pretty boy handsomeness has matured with age, he’s eagerly leaning into the character actor stage of his career. Chewing the scenery with gusto, he gives the film a jolt of comic energy whenever he’s onscreen.

Ritchie, who also co-wrote the script with Ivan Atkinson and Marn Davies, directs in a more straightforward fashion than usual, largely forgoing the sort of heavily stylized visual and editing overkill that can become migraine-inducing. His sense of humor hasn’t gotten any more sophisticated, however, judging by the scene in which Fortune becomes distracted during a caper by a television showing the scene from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid featuring “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head.” Aiming for irony, it just makes you wish you were watching that film instead.

Exhibiting unearned self-confidence, Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre concludes with an obvious set-up for a sequel that’s unlikely to ever come.

Full credits

Production: AZ Celtic Films, Miramax, STX Films, Tencent Pictures
Distributor: Lionsgate
Cast: Jason Statham, Aubrey Plaza, Josh Hartnett, Cary Elwes, Bugsy Malone, Hugh Grant
Director: Guy Ritchie
Screenwriters: Guy Ritchie, Ivan Atkinson, Marn Davies
Producers: Guy Ritchie, Ivan Atkinson, Bill Block
Executive producers: Andrew Golov, Peter Heslop, Guy Ritchie, Robert Simonds, Alex Sutherland, Thomas Zadra
Director of photography: Alan Stewart
Production designer: Martyn John
Editor: James Herbert
Composer: Christopher Benstead
Costume designer: Tina Kalivas
Casting: Daniel Hubbard

Rated R, 1 hour 54 minutes

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