Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre

When twenty security guards are killed in a Johannesburg cargo theft, British intelligence officer Norman (Eddie Marsan) calls in Nathan Jasmine (Cary Elwes) to form a team and find out who was selling it, who is buying it and retrieve it – whatever it is.  Norman contacts spy team leader Orson Fortune (Jason Statham) who is none too happy to have his Moroccan vacation disturbed and find out his regular ‘footman’ John has been poached by rival Mike (Peter Ferdinando) and his new one is not only American but a woman, Sarah Fidel (Aubrey Plaza), in “Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre.”

Laura's Review: C

Cowriter ("Wrath of Man's" Ivan Atkinson & Marn Davies)/director Guy Ritchie’s ("Snatch," "Wrath of Man") casts sure do seem to enjoy themselves on his sets.   By about the halfway mark, one loses interest in the plot of this larky, comedic action thriller, but whoever managed to sign Aubrey Plaza should get a bonus as the actress’s snarky line readings maintain interest far longer than this film deserves.

Orson may chafe against Sarah’s propensity for witty observation (John, apparently, didn’t talk at all, Orson’s preference), but she soon proves her worth directing him over an earpiece in Madrid’s airport.  They identify Ben Harris (Max Beesley), who happens to be the lawyer for billionaire arms dealer Greg Simmonds (Hugh Grant).  Sarah enables their next moves by discovering Simmonds is hosting a charity event in Cannes and happens to be a huge fan of Hollywood star Danny Francesco (Josh Hartnett), who, Sarah’s found, is having a secret affair with his sister-in-law, their bargaining chip for obtaining his cooperation.    The whole gang, including team member JJ Davies (Ritchie regular Bugzy Malone), is soon jetting to France on a private plane.

Ritchie drops us right into the action, cross cutting the original heist to the tick tock rhythm of Nathan’s footsteps as he approaches Norman’s office, and never lets up.  His “Wrath of Man” lead delivers his usual no nonsense scowl paired with lightning fast physical moves, which makes it all the more delightful to hear Plaza dub him ‘sweetheart’ as she pinpoints his opponents (Ritchie evokes “The Warriors” with his close-ups of her lips cooing into a microphone, like that film’s DJ).  Hugh Grant yucks it up imitating Michael Caine as the billionaire keeping thuggish company aboard his yacht.  Hartnett is all rabbity anxiety going into the lion’s den, but once hit up for selfies, finds he enjoys playing himself.  Elwes projects comical world weariness.       

The actors keep it afloat until they don’t.  “Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre” is mindless entertainment, at least until your mind begins to drift.

Robin's Review: B-

Ukrainian mercenaries have stolen a device, called the Handle, that is worth multiple billions. The British government puts a team together to get the device, a programmable artificial intelligence, back and save the world from a catastrophic world-wide financial crisis in “Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre.”

I am not sure who had more fun – me watching Guy Ritchie’s fifth collaboration with Jason Statham and the rest of the talented, often funny, cast or Ritchie, Statham, Audrey Plaza, Cary Elwes, Bugzy Malone and Hugh Grant jetting around the world to many exotic locations, dressing to the nines and living in the lap of luxury. I am guessing it is the latter.

The story is pretty routine. The bad guys steal The Handle, a super high tech AI that can render any security system, no matter how sophisticated, useless. But, that is just a Magoffin designed to temporarily distract the viewer from the fun the cast and crew are having. More important are the locales, the many displays of martial arts prowess and the humor that prevails throughout.

Jason Statham, of course, plays the quirky spy, Orson Fortune, with relish, but there are two characters that steal the show. Aubrey Plaza gets the most gag lines, can play up the smart, sexy secret agent, Sarah Fidel – always besting the guys with her sassy zingers – and Hugh Grant as billionaire arms baron and current owner of The Handle with plans to sell to the highest bidder. He is channeling his own brand of Michael Cain and proves, once again, that imitation is, indeed, the highest form of flattery.

The rest of the players fare well enough with Bugzy Malone as JJ Davies, the go to guy with a gun, and Cary Elwes as team leader Nathan Jasmine. Josh Hartnett, as actor Danny Francesco, the clueless civilian recruited to help get to Simmonds, is essentially wasted. What could have been a funny fish-out-of-water side story is not mined to any comedic depth. Even I could think of a better use of the in-the-dark character to get a lot more laughs and I think Hartnett could have had a better character.
So, kick off your shoes, lay back, have a cocktail and plan to have some fun, even if there is nothing original here.

Lionsgate opens "Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre" in theaters on 3/3/23.