Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre
The screenplays of Guy Ritchie movies have often had the dramatic nuance and depth of a first-year GCSE drama piece, and the directorial sensibility of a group of 16-year-old boys nudging an algorithmic storyline generator in the direction of infantile macho sleaze. What’s more, is that much of his output has been dressed up in the clobber of unbearable pretensions, whether it be the numerological philosophising of Revolver, or the cumbersome shock jock tactics deployed in the mildly enjoyable The Gentleman. 2021’s Wrath of Man saw Ritchie at least offering a film at face value; a fairly muscular, if totally uneven, slice of classic revenge narrative. With Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre, Ritchie appears to understand and embrace this superficiality, making for an enjoyable showcase of Jason Statham’s physicality and Hugh Grant’s late-career scenery chewing.
When Ukrainian gangsters get their hands on a secretive device known as The Handle, panic breaks out amongst the British government. Independent contractor Nathan Jasmine (Cary Elwes) is subsequently hired to assemble a team to retrieve the item, valued at a multi-billion pound sum, to avoid the time-consuming, bureaucratic stumbling blocks associated with the normal governmental channels. Jasmine’s unit is a fairly predictable amalgamation of “characters” and miscreants, the dynamics between whom could have been lifted from any number of frolicking spy capers of its kind.
Alongside Statham – reliably and assuredly as ever playing the role of Jason Statham, in this case with the given name of Orson Fortune – is JJ Davies (Bugzy Malone returning to Ritchie’s orbit in a more central role, in which he just about holds his own as the slightly dim but loyal sharpshooter) and Sarah Fidel (Aubrey Plaza). The team’s leads take them to all sorts of glamorous locations, each dutifully introduced by establishing shots and labelled in true spy movie fashion. Their investigations lead them swiftly to a billionaire arms dealer, the more appropriately named Greg Simmonds, a deliciously sleazy performance from Grant, very much operating in the same mode as Fletcher from The Gentlemen.
The film’s serviceable, yet rather tepid and unwieldy screenplay, however, does a sore disservice to Plaza, whose talents, after being expertly deployed in the excellent Emily the Criminal, could be described as anything but tepid. The focused intensity of her screen presence clashes miserably with the flat material at her disposal, culminating in what feels like a missed opportunity.
Taking itself with a pinch of salt, Operation Fortune comes across as a less self-serious younger brother of The Gray Man: shorter, less imposing and more fun to have a drink with. There are moments, as with most Guy Ritchie films, where you feel as if the perky exuberance will be substantiated by something more piercing, with teasing flashes in the pan that indicate how much of an inventive filmmaker he can be. A covert home invasion where Fortune gets melancholically distracted by a TV performance of BJ Thomas’s Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head playfully indicates something of Statham’s character to cling to beyond his physical prowess. But, just as quickly as it arrives, it recedes, resuming the normal order of things.
Nevertheless, Operation Fortune is a decent placeholder in the Easter weekend billings. If nothing else, its seductive location work will whet the appetite for that warm holiday you’ve been planning.
Operation Fortune: Ruse De Guerre is released on Prime Video on 7th April 2023.
Watch the trailer for Operation Fortune: Ruse De Guerre here: