Movie Review: Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre

Filmmaker Guy Ritchie has built a fairly good reputation for making fast-paced and fun crime capers that feature ensemble casts of Hollywood A-listers hailing from both sides of the Atlantic. After sitting on the shelf for a year, his latest film has arrived at our cinemas in Hong Kong, a viewing option that only audiences outside North America (and the UK, I assume) will have. Everyone else will have to catch it on the streaming platforms… starting next week.

OPERATION FORTUNE: RUSE DE GUERRE kicks off in London where Nathan Jasmine (Cary Elwes, THE PRINCESS BRIDE) pays a visit to his boss in the, I’ll guess, MI-6?, Knighton (Eddie Marsan, VICE). It seems that a piece of revolutionary weapons technology is about to fall into some unsavory hands and the “Agency” wants it before it does. Nathan puts together his IMPOSSIBLE MISSIONS FORCE-ish team that includes the high maintenance but highly effective super-spy Orson Fortune (Jason Statham, THE MEG; SPY), tech whiz Sarah Fidel (Aubrey Plaza, EMILY THE CRIMINAL) and versatile operative J.J. (rapper Bugzy Malone). Fortune’s plan is to use Hollywood action star Danny Francesco (Josh Hartnett) to get to billionaire arms broker Greg Simmonds (Hugh Grant, GLASS ONION), who appears to be involved in the transaction of the technology. Thwarting Fortune’s plan, however, is a rival super-spy whose own team of operatives are just as effective as Fortune’s.

I’m not sure what went wrong here but something clearly did. OPERATION FORTUNE: RUSE DE GUERRE is a disappointing mess. The film was scheduled to be released in January 2022, and then in March, but it was delayed until now reportedly because the film’s bad guys are Ukrainian and the producers thought that wouldn’t go down well with audiences given conflict that’s raging there now. I don’t know what’s changed in the public attitude towards Ukraine since then, which makes me wonder if that was the true reason for the delay. I’m thinking that the film was sent back to Ritchie for re-editing because so many story arcs simply don’t go anywhere. Characters are introduced and then quickly sidelined, other characters seem to be shoehorned in, and potential plot twists never happen. Capers are supposed to have surprises but OPERATION FORTUNE: RUSE DE GUERRE is about as linear as you can get. It’s just as dull, too, with scene after scene of Plaza hacking into computers and smartphones within seconds and looking at a screen and saying, “You’re in.” Oh, yawn. Then there Statham who scowls his way through the film shooting anyone who comes in his way. Yes, there are a couple of fight scenes but they’re too brief, too few and too far between.

Thankfully, the film has a couple of redeeming qualities, notably Grant, who channels his inner Michael Caine crossed with a bit of Ricky Gervais thrown in to comedic effect. He has the film’s best lines, not that there are that many. Hartnett does good work too, and it’s a pleasure to see him on screen again. The one-time teen heartthrob who was once hailed as Hollywood’s next Tom Cruise has mostly stayed out of the limelight for the past 15 years, opting instead to do small films that would allow him to spend more time with his family. Ritchie, who cast him in his 2021 film, WRATH OF MAN, has been credited with bringing the actor back to the big screen. Plaza, quite sadly, is completely wasted and is given too few opportunities to shine.

OPERATION FORTUNE: RUSE DE GUERRE opens in Hong Kong today (January 5th). Be like the audiences in North America and wait for it to go to the streaming services.

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