C’est La Guerre

‘Operation Fortune,’ another snarky Guy Ritchie crime/spy caper

For audiences who feel like the latest James Bond films veered too far into one long, brooding, constipated mope, Guy Ritchie has the film for you: a feisty B-movie pastiche of spy vs spy nonsense sporting a posh swagger with a cockney kick.

Like a thug bluffing his way through a five-star hotel or a chronic C-student using his charm to get a grade boost, Guy Ritchie makes guileless puzzle-box riffs. It’s right there in the name of his latest laddie lark, Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre. Overcomplicated and weirdly forgettable, the title is a mangled mouthful with a highbrow, Gallic ring that sounds smarter than it is. Anytime Brits want to sound sophisticated, by the way, they add some French.

Directed by: Guy Ritchie
Written by: Ivan Atkinson, Marn Davies, Guy Ritchie
Starring: Jason Statham, Aubrey Plaza, Josh Hartnett, Cary Elwes, Bugzy Malone, Hugh Grant
Running time: 114 min

Pretentious? Ritchie is almost too lazy to be—one running joke is that the bad-boy hero Orson Fortune (Jason Statham) has an unquenchable need for extremely expensive wine, but never goes into specifics. And why bother bogging down the script trying to explain the stolen object instigating the story’s secret mission when you can have the espionage higher-ups simply say “we don’t know”?

Incidentally, someone does eventually explain what it does, and it obviously involves plunging the world into anarchy. But they don’t get into enough details beyond “financial atomic bomb” and the ever-trendy boogeyman of the 2020s: “first-of-its-kind programmable A.I.” It’s the demon spawn of Alexa and ChatbotGPT! Also, billionaire Silicon Valley bio-tech bros. They’re the worst.

Expect glamorous international locales like London, Marrakesh, Madrid, Cannes, Antalya, and Doha, plus sumptuous private jets and a superyacht hosting a million-dollar benefit auction. Also throw in missile-ready choppers, plus a killer car collection crowned with a vintage red-and-white Ford Mustang—bulletproof, of course, all the better to outrun a careening Jeep festooned with trigger-happy Turkish goons.

Ritchie knows most ticket buyers just want to see beefy brawls and cheeky repartee—as the perpetually and delightfully intense Eddie Marsan says, “The clock doth ticketh.” So he never lets plot stand in the way of giving people their sensorial kicks. There will be fire-from-the-sky explosions, bodies thrown from viewing towers, and people getting Tasered in the testicles. Also secret numerical passwords that also include a few letters: “Small b for bollocks, big C for cunt.”

Operation Fortune also has just the right mix of oddball movie stars, including balletic brawler Jason Statham, sassy minx Aubrey Plaza, hammy has-been Josh Hartnett, and a goofily lockjawed Cary Elwes. But Ritchie’s plum pick is pretty-boy-turned-late-career-character-actor Hugh Grant, porting over his gravelly Michael Caine imitation from Ritchie’s equally messy-but-fun pothead gangster thriller The Gentlemen.

Here Grant plays Greg Simmonds, an obscenely wealthy arms dealer whose nickname is “the Dark Angel of Merciless Death” but comes off more like a louche lounge singer. Slithery and leather-skinned, sporting a spray-on tan that he thinks make him look a bit too Gandhi, Simmonds has a way of savoring every syllable, making words like “naughty” and “filthy” sound even naughtier and filthier. He’s having a ball, even if you aren’t. And somehow that’s just fine.

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Stephen Garrett

Stephen Garrett is the former film editor of 'Time Out New York’ and has written about the movie industry for more than 20 years. A Rotten Tomatoes certified reviewer, Garrett is also the founder of Jump Cut, a marketing company that creates trailers and posters for independent, foreign-language, and documentary films.

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