Film Review – Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre (2023)

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The trajectory of filmmaker Guy Ritchie has been a rollercoaster since he made his feature debut in 1998. Gangsters, thrillers, detectives, magic carpets, action, comedy, and the rise of Jason Statham, all the boxes have been ticked in the Brit’s eclectic filmography thus far. Still, he perhaps has never really, truly hit the heights of Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels, the film that put him on the map, and its follow-up, Snatch in 2000. Both were a sensation at the turn of the millennium and immediately everyone wanted to work with him but his next film, 2002’s Swept Away, which starred then-wife Madonna was a critical commercial disaster and is still by some considered to be one of the worst films ever made.

His rehabilitation, filmmaking-wise, was complete in 2009 with his bruising, brilliant take on Sherlock Holmes with Robert Downey Jnr and Jude Law and its underrated sequel. Since then he has had more ups and downs: for every The Man From U.N.C.L.E there was King Arthur: Legend of the Sword with a $1billion Aladdin live-action remake in between. In 2021, amidst the uncertainty of the pandemic, he released arguably one of his best films, Wrath of Man, and he followed it up with Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre, which sits somewhere in the middle of his roster. Certainly, it has enough thrills and spills to keep you occupied for a couple of hours but it lacks that magic touch to make it truly shine.

Statham, of course, is back, as secret agent Orson Fortune, hired by fellow British Government agent Nathan Jasmine (Cary Elwes) to lead a team of spies to retrieve the film’s “rabbit’s foot” known as The Handle. This device could bring about Armageddon in the wrong hands, especially those of famed arms dealer Greg Simmonds (Hugh Grant). Accompanied by hacker extraordinaire Sarah (Aubrey Plaza) and JJ (Bugzy Malone), they hatch a plan: to distract Simmonds from the prize with his favourite Hollywood superstar Danny Francesco (Josh Hartnett) and steal back The Handle.

So far, so Mission: Impossible, right? Well, yes, it does feel like a pale imitation of the ever-popular spy series but then, so many do. What Operation Fortune does right is keep the thrills up, the fights brutal and realistic, and the humour, just about flowing thanks to the always splendid Plaza and Grant, though the latter perhaps needs to tap out of the bad guy box for a while after this and Dungeons and Dragons. Indeed, when you have Statham in your film, you know the action will be well worth the admission alone, and you certainly get your money’s worth as the gruff Brit throws himself into every punch, kick and beat down to give the film its brutish edge.

What it doesn’t do right, though, is everything else: a convoluted, nonsensical plot without a hint of real tongue-in-cheek or pithiness to make fun of itself and the scenarios it creates, something Ritchie did much better in The Gentlemen, with his cast struggles to elevate this and the poor dialogue into anything really stirring or funny. For every one thing it does brilliantly, it does two poorly creating a strange cacophony of ideas that don’t mesh nearly as well as others of its ilk, becoming irksome and frustrating for the most part. Still, with Statham and Plaza doing their thing and Grant having fun again, there’s just enough to make this a mildly entertaining diversion.

★★ 1/2

Action, Thriller | 2023 | STX Films | Amazon Prime from April 7th | Dir: Guy Ritchie | Jason Statham, Aubrey Plaza, Hugh Grant, Josh Hartnett, Bugzy Malone, Cary Elwes, Eddie Marsan