Guy Ritchie’s much delayed action/comedy finally arrives on Amazon Prime in the UK some time after the initial trailer dropped after Ritchie’s Wrath of Man in Dec 2021; it’s hard to figure out the rhyme or reason behind why some decent films now bypass our cinemas completely. But Ritchie, previously unable to get arrested as far as creative cinematic output goes, somehow makes it three from three as he continues the hot streak from The Gentlemen with this upbeat, silly espionage caper, with a star-name cast, droll script and some rather dodgy political plotting.
We open on a title that announces “London, England’; this is a production from Ritchie’s own Toff Guy imprint, and a deliberately backward-looking/insular approach is signalled. Cary Elwes plays Nathan Jasmine, a UK government operative to retrieve some kind of AI Pandora’s Box known as The Handle. This McGuffin has been stolen by Ukrainian mobsters, and with Jasmine encouraged to bend the rules and favour an ‘unorthodox approach to war,’ he reaches out to expert mercenary Orson Fortune (Jason Statham) to form a crack team including Aubrey Plaza as the usual super-sexy comms lady Sarah Fidel. Fortune’s team get word that The Handle is going to be auctioned off by super-villain arms dealer Greg Simmonds (Hugh Grant), and concoct an elaborate scheme to crash the auction, involving Simmonds’ favourite actor Danny Francesco (Josh Hartnett in a role that seems written for Brad Pitt). With Fidel pressed into service as bait for the seedy Simmonds, Operation Fortune commences when Simmonds invites the team to his luxurious Turkish villa….
‘There’s a reason they call him the dark angel of merciless death,’ says one character of Simmonds; Grant has made quite a career of panto villains of late, and the fake-tanned, softly-spoken crime boss is another engaging portrait to add to A Very British Scandal and Paddington 2; he’s clearly having fun as a deeply immoral man who has developed from selling ‘nine mils to kids and then tomahawks to terrorists’. Grant has only recently professed to enjoying acting, and has lines to relish here; chatting about someone having a‘funny cancer’, thinking that a described transformation from ‘material genius to spiritual giant’ ‘sounds like me’ or encouraging Plaza to speak with a ‘don’t take orders from anyone’ and then shushing her when she tries to respond, Operation Fortune absolutely slays while Grant is doing his thing.
Otherwise, this is a more-than-passable romp in the vein of Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent; Statham is Statham as usual, setting out his stall with a surprisingly rigorous airport-lobby ball tasering, and struggling to figure out how to use a helicopter’s firing system ‘Front, back, right, wrong?’ Perhaps the unfortunate choice of Ukranian laptops as plot points is the reason for the stuttering release, but with names like Somewhat Scary Dimitri and Plaza professing an interest in ‘the paradox of dualist motivation’, there’s little serious or political intent here. Ritchie is more interested in such conventional cinematic excitements as diamonds, cleavage, sports car, snazzy hats and the threat of a financial atomic bomb; this could be a Michael Winner movie from 1978 if it wasn’t for the hokey green-screen work, but the whole package is way more enjoyable than streaming alternatives like Red Notice or The Gray Man. ‘Eviscerated?…that’s not a nice word,’ murmurs Grant, but Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre provides a nice, smooth, undemanding watch, elevated by another killer performance from Hugh Grant in peak form.
Think maybe Ritchie peaked around twenty years ago? Or maybe he just stopped being relevant? I watched one of the Holmes movies a few months back. It was good (for what it was) but so looong – which may explain why he rarely gets aired on terrestrial TV. The core premise of his latest offering – a crim who’s infatuated with some celebrity – smacks of that recent Nicholas Cage vehicle. Maybe not the first time this particular premise was used???
Grant’s turn reminds me of a very similar role played by another Hugh a while back – ie, Hugh Laurie as the arms dealer in The Night Manager.
Yup, and Grant’s work on A Very British Scandal also helped set him on this path. Laurie similarly good in the same Sunday night time slot. Not sure how three films, including Die Hart, all have the same story, but Ritchie may have peaked commercially, but he’s only just finding his groove artistically. Never thought I’d be extolling his virtues…
Watched this last night on the basis of your review. Was not so impressed – Michael Winner schlock was clearly the benchmark. But worth watching for Hugh Grant. Statham appears geographically challenged – also gets the swimming pool the wrong way round and the harbour. I wouldn’t have been surprised to learn he gets the dates of his precious wine vintages wrong.
My love/hate with Ritchie is approaching Michael Winner proportions. This is a standard heist movie, but let’s agree that Grant makes something memorable of it. And whatever the flaws, it’s so much better than say Revolver…
Would have been better for being simpler and knowing what the hell they were looking for in the first place.
My best guess was a McGuffin.
How clever of them.
The simple name of Guy Ritchie gives me urticaria. But there something frenchy in the title that keeps my curiosity awake of some enjoyable proposal. And what you say in the end of Hugh Grant makes me think it worth a eye on this. So wh(eye) not…
Was speculating on this yesterday, but Ritchie has been quite a different proposition of late. Uncoupling from Matthew Vaughn seems to have removed much of the vulgarity from Ritchie’s work, and if you, like me, hate much of his work, you might be surprised at how he’s developed…Hugh Grant seems to have been positive influence as well…
Oh you give me more grain to mill in this. I’m fully convinced.
I admire your fortitude in watching films I’d never think of seeking out. Someone’s gotta do it, I guess but I can’t imagine anything that would tempt me to watch a Guy Ritchie film.
I hear you, and I totally understand. I have hated pretty much every frame of every film he’s ever made until 2020. He is a laughing stock in my book, a truly terrible film-maker who has zero to offer. But somehow, he’s just made three decent films in a row, so I’m at a loss to explain this run of form. But he’s toned down the mockery tricks and gimmicks; I suspect Hugh Grant is somehow a positive influence. But I never thought I’d write a positive word about him, ever…
Will be doing this this weekend, have been waiting for it! Yeppity yep!
Thought this had you written all over it. Nut tasering ahoy!
I’ve seen Wrath of Man offered on Prime. I’m about 50/50 with Statham, so I’ve never pulled the trigger on actually watching it.
Is Statham the main character here? Or is it more like in the Expendables franchise?
The latter, JS is at the center, but all characters get screen time, as with Expendables…
Trailer looked like Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent alright. But looks like this might be better. Nice to see Hartnett again.
Have you ever had your balls tasered?
Thanks for the typo…not this vigorously, no. Just connecting the terminals on a battery is enough stimulation…
If you only see one film this year about an actor getting recruited to play himself and fight terrorists in a European resort…
Hartnet was also in Die Hart, which is a very different story about an actor who gets recruited to play himself while outsmarting terrorists…OK, if you only see THREE movies this year about…
There was zero chance I was seeing Die Hart so . . . I’ll take Hartnett in this.
is the correct answer.
You have made the right choice, young Padawan. It was a load of codswallop!
Wait, unorthadox vs unorthodox?
Wuuuuuuut? I’m not being a Robert Gitt about it, but…
Unorthadox innit a word.
Isn’t that the way you corrected me? Which version is right and which version is wrong?
It was unorthadox, but you corrected it to unorthodox.
Also “initially trailer dropped” needs a fix too.
I’ll sort it when I get home, thanks.