Synopsis – MI6 agent Orson Fortune and his team of operatives recruit one of Hollywood’s biggest movie stars to help them on an undercover mission when the sale of a deadly new weapons technology threatens to disrupt the world order.
My Take – Ever since his directorial debut, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998), writing-director Guy Ritchie‘s brash, bold, and darkly funny style has been so recognizable that one could walk into a film without any knowledge and still tell within a couple of minutes whether it was one of his or not. Although, he has had his share of clunkers over the years, director Ritchie’s name being attached to a film is almost a guarantee of a good time (with 2002’s Swept Away being an exception of course).
His latest, also marks his fifth collaboration with action man Jason Statham. A pairing that has become a quintessential action staple to the genre, with its own dedicated set of followers, who are always ready to engage in their stylish setups, slick action choreography and snarky banter to boot.
Though the film, which was supposed to release last year, is yet to have any definitive release in the United States, probably due to the fear that the film contains some Ukrainians as the baddies and may come off as poor taste due to their ongoing war with Russia, it has been picked up for international distribution, allowing its release in the U.A.E.
A relief, as the director Ritchie’s latest globe-trotting adventure is a blast from start to finish. With its zingy wit and scorching action aka Jason Statham back doing what he does best i.e. cracking heads while cracking wise, the film is a fun escape into the world of guns, geezers and gorgeous settings.
Sure, it is more conventional in comparison to director Ritchie’s back catalogue and has that “regular world needs to be saved” premise, but thankfully the writing does enough justice to the grand setup by adding the right elements of a well-oiled ensemble, thrill and urgency to make it work. Plus, the film is harmlessly dark and comedic in equal parts. Making it yet another welcome addition to the Statham – Ritchie partnership on screen.
The story follows Orson Fortune (Jason Statham), a British super-spy, known for his unorthodox methods, expensive tastes that require a private jet for his claustrophobia, expensive wines to allay his fear of flying, and posh vacations to rehab from strenuous assignments. Who is recruited by Nathan Jasmine (Cary Elwes), a debonair and cynical private contractor, to track down a stolen briefcase from a facility in Odessa, Ukraine. What’s in the briefcase is unclear. Nor does the British government knows who stole it, or who will be buying it.
With the only knowledge that billionaire arms dealer Greg Simmonds (Hugh Grant) is the intermediary of the deal and will be selling it to the highest bidder, Fortune, facilitated by fellow mercenary spy J.J. Davies (Bugzy Malone) and the keyboard-clacking tech expert and CIA agent Sarah Fidel (Aubrey Plaza) head to infiltrate his network.
Dragged along them is Hollywood star Danny Francesco (Josh Hartnett), who is forced to play along as Fortune’s lure for Simmonds as he is after all his favorite actor. All the while, rival contractors, rich philanthropists and general bad guys are all out to also get their hands on the stolen briefcase which contains something that could change the modern world forever.
As the action moves from Cannes to Turkey and Qatar, Fortune and his merry band have to ensure Danny’s cover is not blown while also tracking the weapon, the film revels in the irreverence that one has come to expect from a Guy Ritchie flick. Who without a doubt knows how to make an entertaining espionage thriller, as he did with The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (2015), which director Ritchie further fills with light comedy moments.
Director Ritchie knows how to make a picture look and sound good, and, if nothing else, Grant’s ridiculousness and the commanding female energy of Plaza are more than enough to keep on thoroughly engaged. Though the film may not be his original works, it’s still a hell of a good time out at the cinemas.
Here, director Ritchie co-writing with his frequent collaborators Ivan Atkinson (The Gentlemen) and Marn Davies (Wrath of Man), plays it smart by equipping his film with all the staples of the spy thriller, then turning the dial to the double that is not afraid to poke fun at itself and the more famous counterparts of Orson Fortune like Ethan Hunt and James Bond.
They also keep the story interesting with enough twists and turns at the right intervals. The action choreography is extremely well done and takes center stage in keeping the pace of the film pacy and upbeat.
Performance wise, Jason Statham emerges well as the lead of the film and continuing to effortlessly lean into his brand of dry charm. Together with Aubrey Plaza as his technical right hand, the two also manage to provide entertaining moments where the two try to work together in contradictory ways.
Speaking of Plaza, she’s one of the film‘s greatest assets, with the writing using her usual deadpan shtick but adding a sense of femininity to the role that she isn’t always afforded when playing the comic relief. She really shines in her role of a hotshot tech wizard Sarah, who knows how to play her cards right in a male-dominated world.
Josh Hartnett is a hoot playing the slightly goofy and gullible superstar, who for his part leans wonderfully into the mindset of an actor whose own vanity makes him easily manipulated throughout, and his back-and-forth with both Statham and Plaza lets the film’s predominantly comedy-driven script pop when needed.
But the one who clearly has the most fun playing his part, is Hugh Grant. Playing a billionaire bad boy complete with twinkly eyes and a naughty accent Grant truly dominates, devouring the scenery with a camp energy that continually picks the film up whenever it starts to favor anything overtly serious. The bromance between Hartnett and Grant is reminiscent Nic Cage and Pedro Pascal in last year’s awesome, The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent. In supporting turns, Cary Elwes, Bugzy Malone and Eddie Marsan are all solid. On the whole, ‘Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre’ is a solid espionage action comedy that delivers an engrossing fun escapist ride.
Directed – Guy Ritchie
Rated – NR
Run Time – 114 minutes