Operation Fortune: Ruse De Guerre Review

Operation Fortune
Super-spy Orson Fortune (Statham) is hired to take down dodgy arms-dealing billionaire Greg Simmonds (Grant). In order to investigate, Orson must put together a crack team of operatives and travel to a number of exotic locations — while battling assorted goons.

by Catherine Bray |
Published on
Release Date:

07 Apr 2023

Original Title:

Operation Fortune: Ruse De Guerre

Playing like a Saturday Night Live skit about a Jason Statham spy movie comes this Jason Statham spy movie, directed by regular collaborator Guy Ritchie. The Stath plays the splendidly named Orson Fortune, a quirky loose cannon of an operative who doesn’t play by the rules of the suited and booted UK intelligence-service honchos (Eddie Marsan, Cary Elwes) that have hired him. The script is likewise a bit of a rule-breaker, having no regard for the niceties of the English language or the believability of anything that is happening, but this isn’t necessarily a massive problem in a film this daft.

Some of what is in store is predictable (shoot-outs at airports, enthusiastic taserings, double-crossing malarky at a charity event in Cannes); some is less predictable (a robbery in which Orson Fortune sits himself down to watch a bit of Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid mid-heist, specifically the ‘Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head’ bicycle scene). But it’s all of a piece with the general sense of knock-about antics. For the most part, the will-this-do? energy keeps things barrelling along quite pleasantly and forgettably.

The sense that no-one has script-edited this stuff for taste or decency creates its own kind of tension.

If this were a more serious film, it might seem of more consequence that this is a singularly inapt time in global politics for a bunch of the baddies to be crooked Ukrainians. In practice, this film is far too ridiculous to feel it bears any relationship to actual human beings; everything here is a cartoon.

Besides, the real villain of the piece is Hugh Grant, on absolutely gonzo form here as some sort of wealthy arms-dealer. The antagonist he so memorably played in Paddington 2, Phoenix Buchanan, was a ham actor who is eventually sent to prison, and Operation Fortune: Ruse De Guerre feels like fan fiction set in a world where Buchanan was later released in order to do his very best impression of Ben Kingsley in Sexy Beast, with a soupçon of Michael Caine thrown in for good measure. It is a staggering performance; hopefully Grant will continue to gift this kind of pantomime villain to a grateful public. Typical dialogue includes a scene where, when reading out loud a password comprising various upper and lowercase letters, he goes with, “Big C — for Clit.” It’s all terribly vulgar, but the sense that no-one has script-edited this stuff for taste or decency creates its own kind of tension.

Intriguing in a different way is Aubrey Plaza in the kind of Bond Girl-style role that Alan Partridge once described as “sexy, but I don’t trust you”. Where Grant fully commits, Plaza goes the other way, to no less entertaining effect: you can basically see her trying to get through the dialogue without corpsing. It’s oddly charming to watch. Essentially, it is a characteristically Ritchie-esque patchwork-quilt of spy-movie tropes and somewhat iffy one-liners — but one that somehow, just about, all adds up to a fairly entertaining film.

Riper than the ripest of ripe Brie, this crime caper provides a ridiculous vehicle for the talents of pretty much everyone involved, all of whom appear to be having a splendid time. Taken on these terms, viewers probably will too.
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