Since his feature debut, Guy Ritchie has had a film released every two-three years. He has crafted a rather formidable reputation for his filmmaking style and rouges gallery of male actors. Regardless of the critical response or tepid box office, there is always a place on the release calendar for a Guy Ritchie joint. So, it was no surprise that he has yet another picture, Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre, starring Jason Statham, this time playing a spy tasked with recovering something very dangerous with a ragtag team. However, the film wasn’t released when it was slated to, and the studio remained quiet on the reason why. Now that Operation Fortune is upon us, the answer to whether it was worth it is somewhat underwhelming.
Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre follows super-spy Orson Fortune (Statham), who has been tasked with retrieving a stolen device called The Handle. Not much is exactly known about what it is, but it is very dangerous and worth billions. Fortune is paired with hacker extraordinaire Sarah Fidel (Aubrey Plaza) and boots-on-the-ground man JJ Davies (Bugzy Malone). The latter is hardly worth mentioning, however, as Ritchie and co-writers Ivan Atkinson and Marn Davies forgot to give the character any personality. Fidel, on the other hand, is all personality, thanks to Plaza’s charismatic turn. The trio, led by their handler Nathan Jasmine (Cary Elwes), concocts a plan to get close to shady arms dealer Greg Simmonds (Hugh Grant) that involves roping in his favorite actor of all time, Danny Francesco (Josh Hartnett), to help get them what they need.
Ritchie’s bravado has always entertained no matter what story he tells. There is hardly much to say about his writing, only that his words occasionally evoke a chuckle or a groan, as it hasn’t matured beyond casual racism and sexism. At best, the writer-director is good at cheeky dialogue, snarky characters and creative camera work. He is hardly the man to call for sentimental drama, but he’s up to the task when it comes to an action-thriller with cool, sarcastic men. Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre, on paper, is the quintessential Guy Ritchie picture, and yet it somehow falls to the bottom of the pack.
The film is even below the ill-conceived live-action remake of Aladdin, which Ritchie did not, in any way, make less orientalist than its animated counterpart. The first notable thing is the lack of the Ritchie aesthetic. Operation Fortune is instead pedestrian in its presentation. Alan Stewart, a frequent collaborator, is credited as the cinematographer, but the final product is lacking; Operation Fortune is missing that oomph. A story with no substance or intrigue is hardly memorable. Ritchie has always excelled at style and colorful characters. Sadly, Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre is missing both.
Statham is doing what he does best, but with a fraction of the enthusiasm and charisma audiences are used to seeing from him. His introductory scenes made this writer wish it was a spin-off of Paul Feig’s Spy, as Orson Fortune is a bit of a clown — a bit of Sterling Archer but dialed down to a three. As viewers get to know Fortune and his particular eccentricities, Richie clamps down Statham’s charm and knack for comedy and strips it away. When Plaza’s Sarah Fidel is introduced, Fortune remarks on her having a personality and him not liking that. At this moment, Ritchie and his screenwriting cohorts tell on themselves, as nearly every character onscreen has no personality.
Plaza’s innate charm and unique persona shines bright and is truly this movie’s only win. Just slightly below Plaza is Josh Hartnett, who by every Hollywood metric should be as big as the mega-star Danny Francesco is in the film. Hartnett is having some fun with the role, but he is only as good as his peers. With most given one-dimensional, hollow characters, and offering the bare minimum effort, Hartnett’s attempts to assert himself in his role flounder. His character had the potential to be the big gag of the story, but with the characterization failing to build him up, everything about Danny Francesco falls short.
Ritchie has made many memorable pictures that have successfully showcased why he is so appealing as a filmmaker. There are legions of fans still hungering for a follow-up to The Man From U.N.C.L.E., and a slightly smaller pool hopes for more King Arthur. His shtick is tiring. Still, he could somehow make one stomach it with the spectacle on display. There is no spectacle here, however, just the usual Ritchie flair that has gone stale. Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre is a superficial spy mission that is joyless and charmless.
More: Creed III Review: Jordan’s Directorial Debut Is Convincing & Confident
Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre opens theatrically in the United States on March 3, and will be released on Prime Video in the United Kingdom on April 7.