Guy Ritchie’s ‘Operation Fortune: Ruse de guerre’ sputters

When a mysterious, $10 billion object is stolen at the start of “Operation Fortune: Ruse de guerre” and the British government wants it back, an intelligence chief says, “I need a creative cunning and unconventional vision to retrieve this kind of mercurial threat.”

Creative cunning and unconventional vision has, in the past, been what director Guy Ritchie has brought with great success to the tired heist and spy genres. 

movie review

Running time: 114 minutes. Rated R (language and violence.) In theaters.

In films like 2019’s “The Gentlemen,” he’d have the usually dapper Hugh Grant play a sleazy journalist who refers to England only as “Angleterre” in an East End accent, and in 2021’s “Wrath of Man” he showcased frequent collaborator Jason Statham’s ability to switch from hilarious to killing machine.

With this director, we’re never so much watching an espionage or crime movie as enjoying another off-the-rails Guy Ritchie attraction. 

That is, until “Operation Fortune,” the co-writer and director’s most uninspired movie in a minute. Lazily bopping around to exotic locales like Cannes, France, Antalya, Turkey, and Doha, Qatar, it’s a generic collage of mega-yachts, luxe hotels, fancy parties, disguised identities and tame fights that add up to a big nothing.

Fortune (Jason Statham), Danny (Josh Hartnett) and Sarah (Aubrey Plaza) search the world to recover a stolen, dangerous item.
Fortune (Jason Statham), Danny (Josh Hartnett) and Sarah (Aubrey Plaza) search the world to recover a stolen, dangerous item.

Worry not about your blood pressure at “Ruse de guerre.” One chase scene in sunny Antalya, with actor Max Beesley on a vespa, is downright soothing. The only factor making it an action sequence at all is the drag-and-drop pursuit music — otherwise it’s a swell drive through town. For accuracy’s sake, they should change the song to “Vacation” by the Go-Gos.

It all amounts to pushing a broken-down plot down the highway. The swiped device turns out to be high-tech “AI,” which is rapidly becoming Bitcoin’s annoying-dinner-conversation successor, and a mercenary group led by Nathan (Cary Elwes) and including Statham’s Orson Fortune, Aubrey Plaza’s Sarah and Bugzy Malone’s JJ gets roped in to retrieve it. 

They also blackmail a movie star named Danny Francesco (Josh Hartnett, blending in with the scenery) into helping them with their scheme. And Grant is back, cockney accent and all, as a nefarious rich dude who’s far less fun than his “Gentlemen” role.

Hugh Grant's reunion with director Guy Ritchie is far less successful than "The Gentlemen."
Hugh Grant’s reunion with director Guy Ritchie is far less successful than “The Gentlemen.”

If you like Statham’s shtick — I do — he tends to be the high point of the film. The old dog’s learned no new tricks, but what’s wrong with fetch? There are, however, some missed opportunities with his character as written. Fortune’s defining characteristic, outside of being badass, is he likes overlong vacations and preposterously expensive amenities: private jets, 1982 bottles of wine, etc. But, in a typical 2023 move, his organization starts cutting back on his expenses at the start of the movie. Ritchie should’ve done more with that gag throughout.

While Statham sticks to what he knows, Plaza pushes aside her signature dry deliveries and doesn’t attempt a more exaggerated type, either. Rather settles on an indistinct, awkward middle. Actually, the very funny actress was a strange choice to pair with Statham from the start because, well, neither of them ever shows much enthusiasm in anything. Together, they’re like a sexy “American Gothic.”

And, on the whole, energy is what this “Ruse” is missing.