Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre (2023)

“You can’t catch this fish with conventional lures. Greg wants what everyone wants. What they can’t have.”

The first of two Guy Ritchie directed films to hit the release schedule this year is nothing short of a mouthful of a title – Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre that also requires a bit of leeway when thrust into its paper-thin plot. Because its Guy Ritchie, a certain expectation is placed on any film he directs. Action, violence and tongue and cheek humor will fill the screen for the allotted run time, this case it’s a hair under 2 hours. During that time, what lacks in plot and character development is made up elsewhere, with a slew of familiar collaborators that take on the extra burden and drag the film across the finish line across its globetrotting adventure.

Something very nasty was stolen by someone and no one knows what it is or who is buying it. Right away, as the film opens, Ritchie along with co-screenwriters Ivan Atkinson and Marn Davies ask a lot of its audience. We’re made to believe what item was stolen by a group of black ops agents is meant to cause certain destruction across the globe and it’s up to the small team to stop the inevitable doomsday from going off. It’s in these opening moments that we’re either along for the ride with zero expectations or the exit ramp is coming up and a decision is to be made rather quickly.

Luckily, it’s the former. Going in with zero expectations works best for Operation Fortune. Unlike Ritchie’s Snatch or Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels era or even more recent The Gentleman, there are plenty of empty yet delicious calories to be had that will end in satisfaction when all is said and done. Along with the signature dry tongue and cheek humor, the stylized violence is enough to go back for seconds or even tempt dessert.

One aspect of Operation Fortune that is never fully realized is the stakes and scope of the threat. Ritchie, Atkinson and Davies never set the urgency that whatever is going for billions on the black market must be stopped at all costs. To the team, it’s just another job. How many other global catastrophes have nearly happened in this world? I just don’t buy into the necessity to avoid catastrophe nor do the villains carry any conviction behind their evil plot.

The team hired to retrieve whats simply known as the ‘handle’ include Nathan Jasmine (Cary Elwes), Orson Fortune (Jason Statham), Sarah Fidel (Aubrey Plaza), and J. J. (Bugzy Malone). Together, the team plans to retrieve the ‘handle’ before billionaire arms dealer Greg Simmonds (Hugh Grant) can sell it. Easy right? To get in the same room or on the same yacht as Greg, the team hires the biggest actor in the world Danny Francesco (John Hartnett) to pique Greg’s interest as Danny is a favorite of his. All Danny has to do is act like he is a billionaire international criminal. The rest is left up to Orson, J. J. and Sarah, all experts in their fields.

Going back to the screenplay, very little attention to detail is paid. Consider this, Orson is tasked to infiltrate a member of the Turkish mafia’s home to install a hackable program on a laptop. Before entering the home, the gas line is reversed, knocking out each person in the home. After successfully installing the program and making the mission look like a burglary, Orson is instructed by Sarah to leave through the front doors without being noticed by the two remaining guards. As meticulous as Orson is in following the plan, crossing T’s and dotting I’s, his decision to exit through the back goes against the surface level character development, if there is any to begin with.

Whatever the reason for the slip in character, whether it’s an oversight in the screenplay or simply used to set up the following comedic moment between the trio or as a vessel for implications going into the climax, its moments like that where Operation Fortune loses its grip. To be believable as a meticulous secret agent who doesn’t have momentary lapse’s in judgement and to lie about it breaks any verisimilitude that is expected from the reputation that Orson carries with him.

He’s the best of the best, and the best wouldn’t make that mistake.

Out of the strong talented ensemble, Statham turns in a run of the mill performance we’re used to seeing from him in this type of role. He’s charming, charismatic with a touch of a gruff exterior and plenty of softness behind him. However its Aubrey Plaza and Hugh Grant that provide the spark for Guy Ritchie. Aubrey has this magnetic energy to her that draws you in with a dry sarcasm while Hugh Grant soaks up the spotlight in his minimal screentime. Cary Elwes and Josh Hartnett round out the cast that all do the best with what they’re given.

If there is one thing that absolutely works for Operation Fortune is the chemistry between the entire ensemble – all playing off one another with comedic timing and instincts to change the pace when the lackluster script calls for it.

All in all, Operation Fortune doesn’t reinvent the wheel, nor does it break ground with new ideas or approach a heist action film in a way that hasn’t been thought of before. For what it is, Its a serviceable action film that limps out of the gate and barely makes it to the finish line. Guy Ritchie provides an entertainment factor that makes the film enjoyable from beginning to end without having to rely on telling a good story. Action wise, Jason Statham is a complete natural, looking sharp as ever while providing the same rough and tumble bravado we’re used to seeing from the actor. Never short on style, whether it’s the villas, the fashion or the breathtaking European backdrop it’s the substance within the lavish lifestyle that will keep the interest high.

Screenplay By: Ivan Atkinson, Marn Davies & Guy Ritchie

Directed By: Guy Ritchie

Music By: Christopher Benstead

Cinematography: Alan Stewart

Starring: Jason Statham, Aubrey Plaza, Josh Hartnett, Cary Elwes, Bugzy Malone, Hugh Grant

Edited By: James Herbert

Release Date: March 3, 2023

Running Time: 1 Hour 54 Minutes

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 51%

Rating: 2 out of 5.

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