Special 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.

Editing: James Herbert
Christopher Benstead

Cast: Jason Statham, Aubrey Plaza, Hugh Grant, Josh Hartnett, Cary Elwes, Max Beesley, Bugzy Malone

Directors: Guy Ritchie
Writers: Guy Ritchie, Ivan Atkinson, Marn Davies
Cinematography: Alan Stewart

When Operation Fortune: Ruse de guerre was initially set to release in early 2022 and pulled just weeks before release, it screamed trouble. However, after learning that it was shelved for a year because the Ukrainian bad guys in the face of a Russian invasion being recognised as bad taste — it all made more sense. Still, I’m surprised to see this in cinemas rather than just pushed out to a streaming service. 

What is Operation Fortune: Ruse de guerre about? Is the film as confusing as its title? No, but it is as silly. 

Jason Statham teams up with director Guy Ritchie once again as Orson Fortune, real name, no gimmicks. A free-agent spy that the government hires through his boss, Nathan (Cary Elwes). His latest job is to track down a briefcase, although he has no idea what’s in it, and neither does the UK government; we’re led to believe it must be dangerous because bad men killed people to get it, and bad men are attempting to sell it. Brokering that sale is Hugh Grant as Greg Simmonds, the reason you’ll want to watch this movie. But I’ll come back to Grant’s scene-chewing escapades. JJ Davies (Bugzy Malone) and Sarah Fidel (Aubrey Plazza) round out Orson Fortune’s Mission Impossible-inspired team of ‘guy that shoots’ and ‘girl that hacks.’

The group’s first act is blackmailing movie star Danny Francesco (Josh Hartnett) as he’s Simmonds’s favourite movie star and a way into his inner circle. And Hartnett is having a lot of fun with his role, both in and out of character. But it’s also in this first major act of the movie I felt like it was missing something — there are none of the typical cuts of swipes used to inject a Ritchie film with energy. And although I understand he doesn’t always use them these days, this was most definitely the type of film that would have benefited from some energy injected into it. 

Statham is doing his regular thing here, and he is charming and efficient at looking badass while fighting and never getting hit. It’s just super dull here. In the face of Aubrey Plazza, who may be doing her regular snarky thing with an added element of feminism, paired with Hugh Grant chewing the crap out of any scene he’s in with what could only be the best-worst inspired Michael Caine impression I’ve watched. There are several moving parts that really work in Operation Fortune: Ruse de guerre — but they all revolve around Plaza and Grant to which I ask: why wasn’t she the movie star? 

I’ve watched the original War of the Worlds movie this week, and although that has an abrupt ending, how Operation Fortune: Ruse de guerre wraps up is only equal to the pacing of a golf match. There’s a shine on Ritchie and co-writers Ivan Atkinson and Marn Davies’s flair for theatrics delivered by Grant paired with a lacklustre action sequence, and then it all sort of fizzles away. 

2021’s Wrath of Man showed promising signs of a thriller; in 2019’s The GentlemanRitchie attempted to play in his gangster playhouse again. I don’t know what Operation Fortune: Ruse de guerre is other than the most non-Ritchie action film I’ve watched, for good and bad. It’s fun enough to watch in the cinema if you’ve watched everything else, but it’s empty calories.