In “Operation Fortune,” Aubrey Plaza saves Guy Ritchie’s latest action-packed but lackluster caper

Guy Ritchie is back with Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre, a not-out-of-the-ordinary comic action film that’s closer in spirit to his recent heist film, Wrath of Man, and thankfully less obnoxious than his heinous The Gentlemen. (Next month, Guy Ritchie’s The Covenant, billed as a two-part war thriller, to be clear, promises not as an agreement to stop making crappy movies.)

Ritchie seems obsessed with nuts in this film.

Operation Fortune begins poised with Nathan (Cary Elwes) being asked by Norman (Eddie Marsan) to put together a team, because “Some heavily guarded cargo has been ambushed outside of a Johannesburg facility… and it’s become very popular with the wrong people.” Kind of people.” Nathan’s job is to find the missing person and find out “who’s selling it, who’s buying it, and what it is.” As Norman explains, this will be a “ruse de guerre,” meaning Nathan will have a must take an unorthodox and unconventional approach to recovering what has been dubbed The Handle, and must hire an unofficial team to do so.

To this end, Nathan Orson chooses Fortune (Jason Statham), who is arguably the best special agent he knows. Norman calls Orson an “administrative nightmare”. A series of unfunny running jokes about Orson’s spending, which, to Nathan’s barely concealed dismay, is overspending. When Orson’s team is assembled, he’s paired with two “widespread minions,” Sarah Fidel (Aubrey Plaza) and JJ (Bugzy Malone), both of whom are as skilled with computers as they are with firearms. Sarah can also flirt and hold her own against Orson – like telling him she controls the turntables and he controls the dance. Not bad for a girl, as she cheekily points out from time to time. (Thanks to Ritchie for his so-called feminism!)

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Your first mission, which is to track down a porter with a suitcase at Madrid airport, is a nifty sequence that gets the film off to a great start. It gives Statham a chance to flex his brawn (and taser some jerks in the nuts) while Sarah orchestrates the plan and cleverly flips it when plans go awry. While the team works well together, they encounter some unexpected problems from Mike (Peter Ferdinando), Orson’s rival who also appears to be hired for the same job.

Operation Fortune: Ruse de GuerreLourdes Faberes and Hugh Grant in Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre (Dan Smith/Lionsgate)However, “Operation Fortune” starts to stagnate after this decent setup. The team learns that the deal for The Handle is being brokered by elusive billionaire arms dealer Greg Simmonds (Hugh Grant, who looks leathery and sounds like he’s posing as Michael Caine). Simmonds is obsessed with movie star Danny Francesco (Josh Hartnett), which is sort of “excruciating weight of a massive talent” rather than sexual — though Danny turned down Greg’s $10 million offer to jump out of a cake and sing to him all Happy Birthday. (Give credit to Ritchie for creating an image that isn’t in the film but can’t be invisible.)

When the team travels to Cannes to lure Greg onto a yacht with Danny for a charity event, the film’s wit and action hit rock bottom. Danny tells an anecdote about testicular cancer that Greg finds funny and cheeky. Nathan discovers that Mike has a team on the yacht and childishly teases his rival about his unfaithful wife and micropenis. (Ritchie can’t resist his inner schoolboy.) Meanwhile, there’s an achingly chatty scene where Sarah stops to buy time and Orson engages in fisticuffs with one of Mike’s ex-special forces that plays out like a fight scene rehearsal feel The entire extended sequence on the yacht lacks suspense and excitement, and the film never quite recovers from that throwback.

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Subsequent action scenes also feel sluggish. Orson breaks into a house to gain access to a computer, and he “breaks his nose, snaps some ribs and fucks some nuts” as he dispatches two security guards as he exits. (Ritchie seems obsessed with nuts in this film.) Even a chase through the quaint streets of Ankara feels sluggish as Orson pursues a man on foot before dying, largely offscreen. Operation Fortune feels lazy with its action bits and pieces that are meant to get viewers’ blood flowing, but instead feels tiresome. The locations in this globe-hopping film are perhaps more interesting than what turns out to be with the characters once they are there.

The cast also seems underused. Statham…remains unwavering, which is why he charms with his patented deadpanning and action moves when disarming.

As Greg arranges the buying and selling, the big dramatic climax involves shooting and chasing and helicopters and explosions and even a rocket launcher, but all of it seems lackluster. What’s more, this episode is so busy edited that unnerved viewers might just wait and see who lives, who dies, and how hash marks unfold. (Typical Ritchie.)
Ritchie never allows viewers to invest in the characters or the story. Little seems to be at stake, even after the value of the MacGuffin, er, “The Handle,” is revealed to be something that could change the world forever. Mike and his crew pose a greater threat than anyone involved in the big deal, which might be one reason Operation Fortune is underwhelming. There is never a noticeable danger from “wrong people” that could raise the level of tension to the point of caring.

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The cast also seems underused. Statham is less violent here than in previous Ritchie outings, but he remains unflappable, which is why he charms with his patented deadpanning and action moves when disarming. Elwes offers a silky presence as Nathan, and Hartnett does a great job of playing Danny as a dumb, vain, and overly emotional actor. He asks Greg, rather hilariously, how he felt going from a millionaire to a billionaire as part of his “research” to play a role. But Hartnett disappears for long stretches, much to the film’s detriment. In support, Bugzy Malone exudes cool as JJ, although his character is a bit vague, and while Grant is suitably sleazy in his role, he’s painful to watch. Luckily, Aubrey Plaza saves the film with her cheeky turn as Sarah. Even when she overdoes some crass jokes, Plaza amuses.

The passable “Operation Fortune” is criminal ho-hum because Ritchie isn’t living up to his potential.

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