Operation Fortune: Ruse De Guerre Review: Jason Statham Vs Hugh Grant In Guy Ritchies Stylish And Fun Spy Caper

When a movie gets tangled up in all kinds of financial problems, delayed for over a year, played out internationally, sent straight to streaming in Canada, and then finally getting the green light to open in the U.S. via a new distributor and thrown into theaters with virtually no notice or time to mount a marketing campaign, you have to think there must be something very wrong here.

Well surprise, surprise. The awkwardly titled Operation Fortune: Ruse De Guerre is loads of fun, an entertaining spy thriller that is faithful to the genre, very well cast, and a hoot to watch. Caught up in the STX mess and then handled by Miramax and a distribution service deal for Lionsgate, the film has been played out in much of the world but is finally being released stateside in a theatrical run that has been so rushed it sadly may not have enough time to find an audience. If it does, I would bet word of mouth will be just fine as it tries to find some customers in between Marvel and DC tentpole movies, and sequels like Creed III which will likely bury it this weekend.

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It’s a shame because I think this is one of director Guy Ritchie’s best movies, an international spy caper that doesn’t take itself seriously but delivers on the action, suspense, and genuine wit the genre requires. Plus it has Jason Statham in a tailor-made role as a kind of superspy out to retrieve a $10 billion black market device that has disastrous consequences for the world if it is in the wrong hands. Plus it also has those wrong hands in the form of Hugh Grant, who is having a blast playing bad, as an international arms dealer whose operation Statham’s character Orson Fortune must infiltrate with his hand-picked team of operatives.

Fortune is recruited to find the device before it is too late by Nathan Jasmine (Cary Elwes), a no-nonsense team leader with a plan he expects Fortune to follow. Think again. With his own team in place including cyber guru and hacker extraordinaire Sarah Fidel (Aubrey Plaza), and eager sniper J. J. Davies (Bugzy Malone), he sets out to bring in a movie superstar Danny Francesco (Josh Hartnett) to win over star-obsessed arms dealer Greg Simmonds (Grant), who is ironically throwing a big event for his war orphan charity on his glamorous yacht off Cannes. With Fidel posing as his girlfriend, and also becoming the object of Simmonds’ desires, the actor reluctantly takes on the role after being essentially blackmailed into doing it. Meanwhile, an arch rival of Fortune’s, Mike (Peter Ferdinando), also has designs on the world-changing device and sets about to get it himself. With all these players in place we have the ultimate cat-and-mouse spy game set to go.

Shot mostly in Turkey which doubles for several international locales, Ritchie has co-written a smart script with Ivan Atkinson and Marn Davies that may not rise to the level of his gritty earlier triumphs like Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch (both with Statham), but if you ask me is miles above some of his bigger budgeted bloated flicks like The Man From U.N.C.L.E. , King Arthur: Legend Of The Sword, and even the successful but overrated Sherlock Holmes franchise of his. Despite an atypical departure as director of a Disney musical, Aladdin, Ritchie, more recently has returned more to his roots with some solid genre pictures like Wrath Of Man (which reteamed him with Statham) , and the cheeky gangster flick The Gentlemen which he is now turning into a TV series for Netflix. Operation Fortune also has him back on the right track of where his strongest talents lie, mixing humor and action in undeniably recognizable Ritchie ways.

The director has a knack for casting and letting actors shine. Statham does what Statham does best here, an infinitely watchable screen action presence, and he is well matched against Grant’s hilarious and slippery arms dealer. Grant , as with the sleazy tabloid reporter in Gentlemen, almost seems to be doing another hommage to Michael Caine here, but it is another later career example (along with Paddington 2) of the versatility of this terrific actor. Plaza is working against type in this kind of picture, but she pulls it off effortlessly, as does Malone. Elwes is all pro as well as the flummoxed Nathan. Hartnett really goes to town, playing all the tropes of an ego-driven action star who finds himself in the role of his life, the real danger zone.

Alan Stewart’s widescreen cinematography is lush, and a shout out to Chris Benstead’s score which echoes John Barry at his Bond best, but does the job perfectly for this assignment.

Producers are Bill Block, Ritchie, and Atkinson. Lionsgate opens it in the U.S. on Friday in a wide release.

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