Operation Fortune: Ruse de guerre (2023)
Operation Fortune: Ruse de guerre (2023)

Genre: Action Comedy and Spy Running Time: 1 hr. 54 min.

Release Date: March 3rd, 2023 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Guy Ritchie Actors: Jason Statham, Aubrey Plaza, Cary Elwes, Hugh Grant, Josh Hartnett, Bugzy Malone, Eddie Marsan, Peter Ferdinando, Lourdes Faberes

 


 

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he film opens in London (specifically designated in England, for those unaware of London’s location), where government man Nathan (Cary Elwes) meets with his superior (Eddie Marsan) – using a footstep gimmick lifted from “Point Blank,” though this one is slightly more complex and timed to modern music. A mystery object worth $10 billion has been stolen, and it’s up to Nathan to put a team together to uncover the seller, the buyer, and what exactly the item is, which must be kept off the open market. And there’s only one man for the job: Orson Fortune (Jason Statham), who must be retained off the books so that no red tape or bureaucracy gum up the works (the ruse de guerre of the title). He’s a private contractor with an exceptional set of skills, which will come in handy when dealing with the menacing people handling this sort of invaluable commodity.

With his tongue-twister of a moniker and some top-flight wine for the plane ride, Fortune is all set for a series of globe-trotting adventures. Joining him are two “footmen,” Sarah Fidel (Aubrey Plaza) and JJ Davies (Bugzy Malone), who specialize in comms (chiefly hacking) and guns (mainly sniping), respectively, as well as a collection of competing special forces teams, intent on obtaining the precious package first. “Something rather nasty has been stolen.”

Sarah is also adept at snarky sarcasm, which ties into Plaza’s casting. She gets to deliver some of the best lines, though they tend not to remain too memorable considering that virtually every character here also contributes to comic relief. It’s not enough for writer/director Guy Ritchie to designate a conspicuously jokey persona; all of the supporting roles must chime in with one-liners and wryness. Also in the mix is movie star Danny Francesco (Josh Hartnett) and arms broker Greg Simmonds (Hugh Grant), whose parts nod to elements from “Get Shorty,” while also being almost entirely extraneous – save for, again, additional scenes for laughs.

This attention to comedy ties into the film’s dually greatest strength and weakness: sincerity. Rarely before has a spy flick boasted protagonists who are never in any genuine danger. Not only do they succeed in every task they undertake, but they also never find themselves in trouble; not once are any of them captured, attacked, or threatened in a believable way. The lack of conflict for the lead trio lends them a certain lighthearted machismo, along with the amusement of witnessing not-so-edge-of-your-seat, action-packed accomplishments. At the same time, however, the characters don’t feel real – or vulnerable or susceptible to the scores of weapon-toting goons tasked with dispatching them.

And yet, “Operation Fortune: Ruse de guerre” contains all of the expected ingredients: hi-tech infiltration, kidnapping, gangsters, assassins, reconnaissance, tailing, shady transactions, shootouts, vehicle chases, hand-to-hand combat, and all manner of traditional spy stuff. It is, in fact, designed as if from the most generic of spy-movie templates, failing to distance itself meaningfully from every “Mission: Impossible” picture and the James Bond episodes. The secret agent endeavors here are made even duller by easy intelligence, which is spoon-fed to the mercenaries (or patriots, as long as they’re employed by legitimate governments) so that they know exactly where to go and what to do. Weirdly, they never really have to improvise; they’re never placed in a situation that gets so out-of-hand that they must enact a Plan B or C or even just detonate their way to safety. “How does he get his information?”

Perhaps the standard triple-crosses, intelligence-gathering, and gun-to-the-head spontaneity of this genre aren’t the biggest draws. With Statham in the lead, martial arts fight sequences ought to be front and center. Strangely, however, many of these moments are specifically choreographed and edited to obscure any realism, instead emphasizing a couple of heavy hits and loud sound effects to make them appear more intense. And this is mixed with a few shots of less serious violence – some thoroughly comical – to reiterate the easiness with which the heroes prevail. The end result is moderate fun only as it’s transpiring – which is periodically bogged down by an overlong runtime and the script’s desperate struggle to find uniqueness.

– Mike Massie

  • 6/10