Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre might be Guy Ritchie’s worst film yet

Jason Statham is super-spy Orson Fortune in director Guy Ritchie’s latest action pic, leading a team of agents on an undercover mission to thwart a billionaire arms broker (Hugh Grant). And, as Travis Johnson reports, it’s dreadful.

It’s always a coin flip with Guy Ritchie. You might get Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels, or you might get Revolver. Sometimes you get Snatch, sometimes you get Swept Away (but not swept away). When he’s in his groove, there’s a cheeky charm and a seemingly effortless Cool Britannia tone to his work. When he’s off, his films are smug, self-indulgent, and weirdly joyless.

Sad to say, Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre belongs in the latter category. It might be his worst film yet. If it’s not, it certainly showcases his cinematic shortcomings to clearest effect. Even fans of his stuff will struggle to find much to enjoy here.

Ritchie regular Jason Statham is Orson Fortune, a kind of bare-knuckle James Bond whose main character quirk is manipulating his employer’s mental health and wellbeing program to keep himself in private flights and fine wines. It’s a bit weird, not least of which is because Orson and his handler, Nathan Jasmine (Cary Elwes as Basil Exposition, effectively) seem to be private contractors.

But a shaky grasp on HR is the least of the film’s problems, as Orson is tasked with getting his hands on a meaningless electronic McGuffin called The Handle before evil arms dealer Greg Simmonds (Hugh Grant, apparently doing whatever the hell he feels like) flogs it off to some transnational criminal or fascist despot. A team is assembled, including hacker Sarah Fidel (Aubrey Plaza, wasted) and assassin J.J. (grime guru Bugzy Malone, pretty good), and a plan is hatched, which involves recruiting movie star Danny Francesco (Josh Hartnett) to help them penetrate superfan Simmonds’ inner circle.

A few other elements drift in and out of the field of narrative focus, including Petet Ferdinando as Mike, an underwritten rival mercenary also after the widget, and a couple of Shkreli-alike billionaire biotech bros, but essentially we’re watching Orson and his team jet around Europe firing unfunny verbal barbs at each other, pausing occasionally so Statham can kick the living crap out of someone (always a welcome diversion, to be fair) or let Grant indulge in some panto-level mugging.

It’s dreadful.

If you’ve ever had an unfunny friend with a tendency to nudge you in the ribs until you grudgingly chuckle at their non-jokes, the experience of watching Operation Fortune will recreate the feeling of hanging out with that person with uncanny accuracy. It’s a dire, listless, self-satisfied experience, a film utterly convinced of its own cleverness and coolness, to the detriment of literally everything happening on screen.

Orson Fortune is not a character, but a collection of tics and tropes that has been stuffed into an unconvincing Jason Statham suit. The plot is meandering and meaningless—generally not a negative in a good Ritchie joint, where the moment-by-moment charms make up for the shaggy-dog storytelling, but certainly another strike here. Normally entertaining performers are left hung out to dry by their thankless roles (Plaza) or else given enough rope to hang themselves (Grant, whose turn as the venal gun runner is cringe-inducing).

Perhaps the most damning thing about Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre is that colon in the clunky title, which indicates that this may very well have been intended as a franchise-starter. The thing is, for a less-established director, it would have been a career-ender. It’s difficult to imagine what kind of self-delusion is required to believe that anyone would want to see any of these characters twice, when once is more than enough. The best course of action is to simply skip Ruse de Guerre, and count yourself fortunate in doing so.