Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre

Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre

2023, R, 113 min. Directed by Guy Ritchie. Starring Jason Statham, Aubrey Plaza, Josh Hartnett, Cary Elwes, Bugzy Malone, Hugh Grant, Eddie Marsan.

REVIEWED By Richard Whittaker, Fri., March 3, 2023

What is serious eventually becomes satire. Harry Palmer and James Bond became Austin Powers and Top Secret! But what happens after the satire has faded? Does the seriousness return? Not quite, if you're Guy Ritchie, who, after a 15-year hiatus from working with his greatest discovery, Jason Statham, has now delivered back-to-back collaborations. First there was 2021's surprisingly effective and brutal thriller, Wrath of Man, and now they team up once again for jumbled retro-revival spy flick Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre.

Formerly titled Five Eyes and reportedly reedited to cut back on the number of evil Ukrainians (bad timing there), the ponderously renamed Operation Fortune aims for the same kind of jolly, witty action with visual flair that Ritchie pulled off so admirably in Sherlock Holmes and has seemingly been trying to recapture (with diminishing returns) ever since. While Operation Fortune is definitely a step back in the right direction after 2017's muddy, mirthless King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, this mannered and low-key globetrotting clash of rival freelance spy rings is oddly lifeless.

There's a MacGuffin called the Handle in the wind, of course, that everybody wants even if no one knows exactly what it is. Leading the charge is Orson Fortune (Statham at his most reservedly Stathamesque), backed up by tech expert/femme fatale Sarah Fidel (Plaza, relaxed to the point of recumbent) and marksman/sidekick J.J. Davies (UK rapper Malone, inexplicably subtitled in some sequences), working for M-esque handler Nathan Jasmine (Elwes, playing the reserved toff to a comedically edged T) as they bounce around North Africa and the Adriatic in one of the most talky spy flicks ever committed to cinema. And somehow Josh Hartnett is in tow as a Hollywood star who gets dragged into the mayhem.

Ritchie's always been known as a dialogue-loving filmmaker, but this time around he seems particularly afraid of dead air. Suffocated by exposition and overly reliant on audiences' existing preconceptions about what its instantly recognizable cast brings to the table, there's no sense of anyone stretching or being stretched here. Well, apart from Hugh Grant as a billionaire fixer, sporting a questionable Cockney accent and dealing out all of Ritchie's mandatory swears.

The end result is monotonous – in the most literal way. Operation Fortune is just one long series of heist sequences that run at the same speed, at the same tone, and all flatly shot by Ritchie's new regular cinematographer, Alan Stewart. If the plan (as the colon-bearing title implies) is, like every spy flick, to become a franchise, Ruse de Guerre needs a few more tricks up its sleeve.

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Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre, Guy Ritchie, Jason Statham, Aubrey Plaza, Josh Hartnett, Cary Elwes, Bugzy Malone, Hugh Grant, Eddie Marsan

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