Guy Ritchie has a way with lighthearted action/crime movies dosed with comedy. His latest, Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre, fits his general formula: there are charming tough guys, wise-cracking comic relief, charismatic bad guys, jokes to (intentionally) puncture tension and action that is violent without ever getting too intense. All the pieces are there for something really fun, but Ritchie only intermittently puts them together successfully. Operation Fortune has several moments of amusement and a cast that seems like they had a wonderful time filming this. However, it also has a paint-by-numbers plot and isn’t nearly as funny as it feels like it should have been. The result is thoroughly okay and instantly forgettable.
The amazingly named Orson Fortune is a freelancer working for the British government. When he and his team are hired to get to the bottom of a mysterious deal by a dangerous arms-dealer, they enlist the help of the favorite movie star of their target to give them an in. The usual twists, turns, double-crosses, shootouts and tight situations ensue.
Despite there being a lot of action and plot, the movie drags. A big reason for this is that the screenplay isn’t exactly the most creative for this genre, so all the major developments can be seen coming from a mile away. That means, if the dialogue isn’t strong and the story isn’t captivating on its own, the audience is just waiting impatiently to get to the next obvious plot point. The story definitely is not captivating on its own. It dutifully follows the formula, with nothing interesting about the structure or the editing to add energy.
Likewise, the pacing is slightly off, too slow to match the silliness of the story, as well as the speed of the dialogue. It seems oddly leisurely for an action/espionage comedy. It is almost like Ritchie figured his cast would carry things enough that he didn’t need to do much in any other area. In fairness, the cast is undoubtedly the best aspect of Operation Fortune.
Jason Statham stars as the title character, a respected spy who seems to prefer punching a guy in the face to sneaking past him. Actually, the cleverest element in this movie is that he isn’t some master strategist. He brute forces his way through a lot of the plot, via a combination of carelessness and being really good at fighting. Statham is fine in what essentially amounts to the “Jason Statham” role, though he doesn’t bring anything to it that many other actors couldn’t have.
As the team’s brains/computer wizard, Aubrey Plaza is an inspired casting choice. She certainly would not have been the first person I would have thought of for the role of a suave spy. She straddles the line between goofy snark and believable tech genius/secret agent shockingly well. She somehow convincingly makes this the “Aubrey Plaza” role and has pleasant chemistry with Statham.
The remaining main cast members are Josh Hartnett as the clueless actor, Bugzy Malone as the team’s muscle, Cary Elwes as their handler and Hugh Grant as the arms-dealer they are trying to get close to. Hartnett is wasted as a non-meta version of Nicolas Cage in The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent. The screenplay gives him barely anything to do. Elwes has a couple humorous exchanges with Statham, yet mostly pops up to move the plot along. Grant, on the other hand, mugs delightfully as a star-struck, smooth-talking, businessman. His skills are utilized as effectively as Plaza’s are, with him getting a few speeches that are entertaining not because of what he says, but because of how he says it.
Operation Fortune (108 minutes, minus the end credits) has the makings of an enjoyable late-winter diversion. It doesn’t quite get there. While not actively bad, it never clicks the way the better entries in this genre do. It drags way too much for me to recommend it. Still, its parts are good enough to make for decent distracted viewing once it hits streaming.
2¾ out of 5
Jason Statham as Orson Fortune
Aubrey Plaza as Sarah
Josh Hartnett as Danny
Hugh Grant as Greg
Cary Elwes as Nathan
Bugzy Malone as JJ
Directed by Guy Ritchie
Written by Guy Ritchie, Ivan Atkinson and Marn Davies