Due for release at the start of last year before being unceremoniously pulled from distribution at the last minute, Operation Fortune: Ruse De Guerre now finds itself being awarded a disappointingly scattered release, scuppering any possibility of this kickstarting the planned franchise that director Guy Ritchie clearly envisaged. It’s a shame as Operation Fortune is an incredibly fun time at the movies, with everyone at the top of their game.
Statham stars as renowned spy Orson Fortune who is tasked with tracking down a deadly new weapons technology that could cause catastrophe in the wrong hands. Those wrong hands belong to billionaire arms dealer Greg Simmonds (Hugh Grant), who is making this weapon available to the highest bidder.
Fortune’s team is led by Nathan Jasmine (Cary Elwes) who teams him up with Sarah Fidel (Aubrey Plaza) and JJ. Davies (Bugzy Malone) in order to stop the sale. Getting access to Simmonds could be difficult but luckily for them he has an achilles heel, with him being obsessed with Hollywood star Danny Francesco (Josh Hartnett). With that, Orson blackmails Francesco into helping them infiltrate Simmonds base and find out who he is planning to sell to.
While Danny cozies up to Simmonds, the team must work fast before they are caught in the act. At the same time they have to fight off a competing team of agents led by Mike (Peter Ferdinando) who want to retrieve the technology first in order to steal the glory from Orson and his team, although there may be other motives in play.
Operation Fortune is certainly a more breezy affair than Ritchie and Statham’s last collaboration, the cold as ice crime saga Wrath of Man (2022). Although it is certainly more violent, Operation Fortune is more in line with Ritchie’s previous spy caper, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (2015) filled with great dialogue, a charismatic cast and exciting set pieces.
While he has said in the past that he doesn’t consider himself an action director, throughout his career he has proved to be quite adept at them. One just has to look at the action scenes in the likes of Sherlock Holmes (2009) and its sequel to show how talented he is at staging stylish set pieces. True, his penchant for fancy camera work can on occasion affect the flow of the action, but thankfully that never happens with Operation Fortune, with everything being shot crisply and clearly.
Like the majority of Ritchie films, he also worked on the screenplay. This is clearly evident when looking at the roster of eccentric characters he and his co-writers have cooked up. The type of characters that populate the film are very closely related to those we have witnessed in previous Ritchie capers like Snatch (2000) or more recently The Gentlemen (2019), with Hugh Grant’s apparent villain Greg Simmonds being almost identical to the role he played in that film, albeit slightly less sleazy.
The plot isn’t exactly genius level, but there’s enough twists and double crosses to keep spy movie fans happy, with Ritchie managing to keep the tension raised throughout. This is especially true in the sections that concern Plaza and Hartnett infiltrating Grant’s Turkish compound, where the two could be captured at a moments notice. The only thing saving them could be Grant’s character being infatuated with Hartnett’s A-list movie star.
This element of the plot creates a good deal of comedic potential, being very similar to last year’s The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent (2022) where Nicolas Cage was wined and dined by an infatuated fan played by an enthusiastic Pedro Pascal. It’s a shame that Operation Fortune was delayed for so long as Massive Talent has stolen some of its thunder, with it looking as if it has copied the Cage vehicle, even though it would have been released first if things went to plan.
Typically for Ritchie, he has assembled a top tier cast that more than brings his characters to life. Marking their fifth collaboration, Jason Statham is perfect in the title role. He has shown a penchant for comedy throughout his career, with his early films with Ritchie being a perfect example of this. Latterly his performance in Paul Feig’s Spy (2015) showed how willing he was to send up his action hero status. His role of Orson Fortune isn’t as much of a send up as Spy was but Statham is still having a lot of fun, with Fortune allowing him to be the typically charismatic action hero we are used to but with the added bonus of some intentional comedy.
Unlike Wrath of Man, Operation Fortune gives Statham more opportunity to show off the action skills his fans have grown accustomed too. A one on one fight on board Simmond’s yacht is especially well done, with Statham getting a decent showcase to show off his martial arts skills. A later skirmish between him and a group of mercenaries in the surroundings of a Turkish ruin is also well done and that is before we get to the explosive finale, although it must be said that whilst well done doesn’t live up to the action that has come before.
Statham is more than capably matched by Aubrey Plaza as Sarah Fidel, the tech side of the operation. More than just I.T. support, Plaza’s Sarah proves to be just as adept as a field agent, especially in the latter half of the film where she and Hartnett’s character are involved in a high speed car chase. Plaza works well against Statham with her put downs regarding his ineptitude raising a lot of laughs. Although Plaza is known primarily for comedies, it’s nice seeing her getting in on the action for a change.
The two of them are capably supported by rapper Bugzy Malone, who surprisingly does extremely well in his sidekick role. I say surprisingly, as I wasn’t exactly aware of him before this other than his small role in Ritchie’s The Gentlemen.
Assisting the team is Josh Hartnett as the slightly cowardly Danny Frencesco. This is Hartnett’s second film with Ritchie and Statham after Wrath of Man and although there are some similarities between the two characters, Francesco is a more enjoyable role for Hartnett. The character also allows Ricthie to inject some subtle (and not so subtle) digs at how false Hollywood is.
It’s especially nice to see Cary Elwes getting a substantial role as the head of the team. Completely exasperated at the expense of Fortune’s not exactly inexpensive tastes, Elwes proves once again to be a gifted comedy actor and is so good here you wonder why he isn’t appearing in more mainstream fare. Saying that, this year he will be appearing in Mission:Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One (2023) and Zack Snyder’s Rebel Moon (2023), which he will then be following up with another Guy Ritchie movie, The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare (2024).
As great as all these cast members are, the film is almost stolen completely by Hugh Grant’s hilarious turn as billionaire arms dealer Greg Simmonds. As mentioned, his role is somewhat derivative of the one he played in The Gentlemen, but it is no less enjoyable. Grant steals every scene he is in, with him able to turn easily from charming to menacing. His character is actually that enjoyable, you’re slightly disappointed that he is essentially the bad guy.
However, Ritchie doesn’t go the typical villain route with Grant’s character with him being more of an anti-hero in some respects. His most impressive scene comes late in the day when he shows his backstabbing business partners what he is truly capable off. He is able to do this just through words, with him not even lifting a finger.
Simmonds is the type of part that I only wish Grant had done more of in the past, rather than the countless romantic comedies he became known for. Thankfully his career seems to have changed in the past several years with him getting roles more fitting with his talents.
Operation Fortune: Ruse De Guerre will certainly never be classed as the best Ritchie/Statham combo. It slightly pales in comparison to the gritty delights of Wrath of Man and doesn’t have the same level of humour as Snatch which is probably their best team up. Even so, it is an extremely entertaining watch that should satiate the appetite of action fans while tickling their funny bones. My only real issue with the film is that we probably won’t see more adventures with these characters, even if the final moments of the film allude to such.
Guy Ritchie has a busy slate ahead of him. He has the upcoming The Covenant (2023) starring Jake Gylenhall as well as the previously mentioned The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare. That’s before he even starts on the live action version of Disney’s Hercules which I find less appealing but can understand it from Ritchie’s point of view. The last time he teamed with Disney was on the live action Aladdin (2019), with it going on to become his highest grossing film to date.
Like Ritchie, Statham also has several films upcoming, with the already shot Expendables 4 (2023) finally due this year. Before that though he has Fast X (2023) which has him returning as Deckard Shaw. Additionally there is the Meg sequel which is planned for later in the year as well as the interesting sounding The Beekeeper.
So, even if we don’t get a sequel to Operation Fortune, at least we know both Ritchie and Statham will be keeping action fans quite happy for some time.
Plot: 3.5/5 Acting: 4.5/5 Action: 3.5/5 Overall: 3.8/5