OPERATION FORTUNE: RUSE DE GUERRE

Reviewed by GREG KING

Director: Guy Ritchie

Stars: Jason Statham, Aubrey Plaza, Hugh Grant, Cary Elwes, Josh Hartnett, Bugzy Malone, Eddie Marsden, Peter Ferdinando, Max Beesley, Lourdes Faberes.

Jason Statham

Filmmaker Guy Ritchie gathers together most of his usual band of players for this exciting, action packed but cliched, formulaic globe-trotting spy movie adventure that ticks all the right boxes for the genre.  

When a mysterious device (the film’s macguffin) is stolen from a secret laboratory MI6 needs to act quickly to recover it before it can be deployed. MI6 head Norman (Eddie Marsden) calls upon his trusted right hand man Nathan Jasmine (Cary Elwes) to put together a crack team to not only find the stolen device but to uncover the identity of the person behind the theft. Jasmine brings on board his best freelance operative Orson Fortune (Jason Statham), a specialist in off-the-book jobs that the government can deny knowledge of, who is currently enjoying a holiday. He is less than pleased to be called back into active duty. Joining Fortune’s team is Sarah Fidel (Aubrey Plaza), a gifted computer genius and technical boffin, and JJ Davies (Bugzy Malone).  

Jasmine learns that brokering a deal to auction off the deadly device to the highest bidder is none other than sleazy billionaire/philanthropist/arms dealer Greg Simmonds (Hugh Grant). The best hope of penetrating Simmonds’ operations seems to be to recruit popular Hollywood action hero Danny Francesco (Josh Hartnett), one of the biggest movie stars in the world, who is apparently Simmonds’ favourite actor. Posing as Danny’s agent and girlfriend respectively Fortune and Sarah and Danny gain entry to a lavish charity fundraiser being held on Simmonds’ luxury yacht in Cannes. Thus begins a covert operation to gain Simmonds’ trust and insert Danny into his inner circle to distract Simmonds while Fortune and his team try to discover the identity of the ultimate buyer of the device. The film’s subtitle Ruse De Guerre refers to a legitimate strategy of warfare using subterfuge and deception to get under the enemy’s guard. 

However, Fortune’s team is not the only one involved in the hunt as a rival force, led by rogue former MI6 agent Mike (Peter Ferdinando) is also on the trail. And Mike is backed by a heavily armed and well-equipped force of mercenaries. 

Operation Fortune has been written by Ritchie and his usual writers Ivan Atkinson and Marn Davies (the recent Wrath Of Man, etc), and it has all the usual hallmarks of his action fare – lots of well-choreographed fisticuffs, spectacular pyrotechnics, a high body count and exotic locations – with his usual muscular approach to the staging of the key action set pieces. Little of it is credible and it does become overly complicated, but it is never boring. The action has been crisply shot by Ritchie’s regular cinematographer Alan Stewart. 

This is Statham’s fifth collaboration with Ritchie and he acquits himself well in the familiar role of the surly tough guy who utters droll one-liners as he dispatches bad guys in ruthless fashion. His perpetual scowl and grim demeanour is firmly in place here, as is his self-deprecating style. Plaza brings some sarcastic humour and charm to her role. She and Statham share a prickly chemistry. Cast largely against type, Grant is smooth and debonair and full of charm, but he also oozes sleaze as the villainous Simmonds, and seems to be having fun with his role here. Somehow Ritchie seems to have been able to draw the best out of Grant in their few collaborations, and he chews the scenery with relish. Hartnett does what he can with the underwritten role of the insecure, gormless movie star who quickly finds himself out of his depth in the spy game when the bullets are real. 

The release of Operation Fortune was briefly delayed due to the war in Ukraine, because some of the villains here are of Ukrainian origin.   

While there is nothing fresh or original to see here, Operation Fortune is eminently forgettable stuff, but it will certainly please fans of this genre. 

★★★

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