Review – Operation Fortune: Ruse de guerre

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Overview

Synopsis A team of spies must find a $10 billion mysterious package being stolen and trafficked through the world's wealthiest figures, before it ends up in the wrong hands.

Length 1 hour, 54 minutes

Release Date March 3, 2023 (United States)

 

Rating R

Distribution Lionsgate

Directing Guy Ritchie

Writing Ivan Atkinson, Marn Davies, Guy Ritchie

Composition Christopher Benstead

Starring Jason Statham, Aubrey Plaza, Josh Hartnett, Cary Elwes, Bugzy Malone, Hugh Grant

I’m on the record as a noted hater of Guy Ritchie. There was a time in the early 2000s when the acclaimed director of Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch was viewed as a fresh stylist and an up-and-coming auteur with a comparable career trajectory to that of Quentin Tarantino, but that didn’t come to pass. While Tarantino went on to make Inglorious Basterds and Django Unchained, Ritchie went on to make Revolver and RocknRolla… Then he sold out HARD to make over-stylized blockbusters like Sherlock Holmes and Disney’s live-action Aladdin

It took a very long time for me to have anything good to say about a director with THIS much visual storytelling talent being poured into such vapid and forgettable films. In the past three years though, that opinion has cooled off. And my positive reception of his films appears to have curiously eclipsed that of some other film critics.

Content Guide

Violence/Scary Images: R-rated but relatively tame violence, with brawling, shooting, stabbing, and some blood depicted.

Language/Crude Humor: Excessive language throughout, including f***, s***, a**, and G**d***. 

Sexual Content: Some very suggestive dialogue and low-cut female clothing, but nothing sexual is depicted.

Drug/Alcohol Use: Characters drink very heavily throughout the film.

Spiritual Content: Limited to none.

Other Negative Themes: References to greed, sexual promiscuity, and betrayal.  

Positive Content: Themes of duty, patriotism, and serving humanity.

Review

It took me a very long time to figure out what it was that made me dislike Guy Ritchie as a director. I’m not against style in films, and few directors are known for their style quite like the director of Snatch and Sherlock Holmes. For a long time, I was convinced that his works were completely vapid, empty slogs with no content, character development, or thematic substance beneath his $100 million special effects budgets. And frankly, films like King Arthur: Legend of the Sword more than proved my case. 

However, with his most recent three films, my opinion on him has greatly softened. The Gentleman (2019) and Wrath of Man (2021) shrank Ritchie’s ambitions back to that of his older films—stylized crime thrillers and action movies evoking the humor and style of Tarantino, without the brains. And that brainless, rudderless, style of action filmmaking actually works a lot better for me. I’m fine with a Guy Ritchie that just wants to do glossy Jason Statham movies.

His newest film, Operation Fortune, is very much Ritchie in the vain, smaller-scale stylized action film with wacky characters, elegant settings, and a pastiche to James Bond that more than rivals his previous homage in The Man From UNCLE. Granted, my relatively amused appraisal doesn’t seem to be the critical consensus. The movie has been mostly savaged by mainstream criticism, with Rotten Tomato’s consensus opinion saying it “can’t keep up with the best modern action movies, but its got just enough firepower for viewers seeking a few undemanding thrills.” 

Something about the movie hit me right though. Maybe it’s just that I don’t have high expectations for Jason Statham films or that its mostly lazy plot doesn’t plod along painfully, but I enjoyed it as schlock. I’m not going to call it “good” but I definitely enjoyed it more than Sherlock Holmes 2… 

In any case, the film follows an enigmatic private spy named Orson Fortune, a hypochondriac and man of expensive tastes who is conscripted by the British government to track a mysterious $10 billion package that’s gone missing. Nobody knows what it is, but the richest men in the world are dying for a chance to get their hands on it. 

In order to find it, his organization conscripts an awkward-but-attractive millennial tech genius and a world-famous movie star to sneak into the world of high finance and “espionage” their way to solve the mystery, but against all odds another unknown faction has hired a mirror team of private spies to perform the same mission. Time is short for Orson Fortune to solve the mystery and beat his former friend’s team in the process. 

There are a lot of really cool ideas in a film like Operation Fortune—a Tarantino-esq mysterious MacGuffin, a ticking time bomb, an unreliable and flawed protagonist, unreliable supporting characters, glamorous filming locations, etc. Most of these elements fall apart in execution. Statham doesn’t have the range to play a character other than Jason Statham, so the character setup in the intro rapidly turns into a generic action man—much like his other performances.

There are other major problems. The lack of clear stakes from the get-go also results in a film that mostly skates by on its groove and charisma. Even the mystery reveal is cliche. It is very much your generic mid-tier action film with all the cliches that implies—if mildly elevated by Ritchie’s panache for strong visuals and dark humor. I definitely see why so many critics view the film as a wash, as it does get more tedious the longer it goes on.

I still stand by my statement that Operation Fortune falls onto the more notable side of Ritchie’s career. It is no showcase for his storytelling talents, unlike The Gentleman, which completely changed my mind about his work. It also lacks some of the grit that made Wrath of Man a fairly affecting action movie. If nothing else though, I just prefer THIS brand of Guy Ritchie schlock to the kind I was given before. The Man From UNCLE gave me a headache. Operation Fortune did not. 

Positives

+ Glamourous cinematography
+ Fun comedy moments

Negatives

- Melodramatic performances
- Tedious cliche story
- Mediocre action scenes

The Bottom Line

Operation Fortune isn't a great movie, and it won't hold up under scrutiny, but I still enjoy it as a positive direction in the overall career of a director I have complicated feelings towards.

 

6.5

Tyler Hummel

Tyler Hummel is a Nashville-based freelance journalist, a College Fix Fellow, and a member of the Music City Film Critics Association. He has contributed to Geeks Under Grace, The Living Church, North American Anglican, Baptist News Global, The Tennessee Register, Angelus News, The Dispatch, Voeglin View, Hollywood in Toto, Law and Liberty, The Federalist, Main Street Nashville, Leaders Media, and the Catholic Herald of Milwaukee.

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