OPERATION FORTUNE: RUSE DE GUERRE Review: Undemanding Spy Caper, Courtesy of Guy Ritchie
Jason Statham, Hugh Grant, Aubrey Plaza, Josh Hartnett and Cary Elwes star in the action-comedy, directed by Guy Ritchie, opening March 3 in U.S. movie theaters.
If you’ve ever wondered how Guy Ritchie’s “London Underground” style would mesh with the suave and debonair world of 007, then wonder no more.
The awkwardly-named Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre -- still far more intriguing than the original Five Eyes, and after other roll-off-the-tongue gems like Toff Guys and Cash Truck -- is Ritchie indulging in his very own spy caper. It’s also probably as close as anyone will ever let him get to a James Bond movie.
The premise is basic and Ritchie gets it out of the way in the first five minutes. Sexily named super spy Orson Fortune (the director’s muse, Jason Statham, still sporting the same take-no-shit grimace he had in last year’s Wrath of Man) gathers a team to chase after a mysterious AI-type contraption which could spell global doom.
Said team consists of tech whiz Sarah Fidel (Aubrey Plaza, clearly having a lot of fun spouting off acid putdowns), jack-of-all trades JJ (rapper Bugzy Malone), and snooty ringleader Nathan Jasmine (Cary Elwes). The mission pits them against sleazy arms dealer Greg Simmonds (Hugh Grant, playing the exact same smarmy role he did in The Gentlemen, without even bothering to switch accents), a rival intelligence agency, and a group of Ukrainian thugs (which partly explains why this movie has bounced around release schedules pretty much worldwide for over a year). Joining them on the case is clueless Hollywood superstar Danny Francesco (Josh Hartnett), and the irony of casting former It Boy Hartnett as the megastar that Tinseltown was once trying to make him into is not lost on anyone.
After the quick setup, the adventure takes off running and Ritchie has pretty much covered all the 007 basics: a half dozen exotic international locations, from London to Turkey to Los Angeles; a MacGuffin so inconsequential not even the people chasing after it know what it is; stylish suits and fancy cars; functional gadgets; megalomaniacal villain speeches (oh boy, does Grant have fun with these); an impossibly cool superspy, and even an M stand-in. If EON Productions ever need a new face to play the head of MI6, Cary Elwes would be an inspired choice.
Ritchie runs through all the expected cliches with his usual energy, along with the usual non-PC jokes and neverending snark just begging to not be taken seriously. In fact, Guy’s main focus is to be stylish and cool, sitting back and letting his actors trade barbs and have fun.
While it’s always a treat to see Statham cracking skulls without breaking a sweat, the action sequences are few and far between, and surprisingly sedate, never really kicking into high gear. This is all about style and Ritchie hanging out with his usual repertoire players, such as Statham, Malone, Grant, Hartnett (who’s low-key headed for a comeback), and Eddie Marsan, who plays a stick-up-his-ass government suit and probably shot all of his scenes in a day.
This is a sped-up, fun and surface-level version of a spy caper that even ends with a sequel hook for more adventures of Orson Fortune and his team of wisecracking operatives. It’s probably wishful thinking, considering how 80% of the world hasn’t even got a chance to see it.
Guy Ritchie has been cranking out movies every year for the past four or five, applying his signature style to everything from hardcore revenge dramas to family friendly blockbusters to fantasy films, all with varying results; now it’s his turn to tackle a Bond adventure. And while he’s usually at his best when in his London crime milieu, by this point, if you’re a fan of the Guyritchieness of it all, you’ll have no problem kicking back with this. As an undemanding caper, Operation Fortune delivers.
Review originally published in January 2023 in connection with the film's release in movie theaters throughout Australia, Europe, Latin America and Asia. It will open in U.S. theaters on Friday, March 3.