Operation Fortune: Ruse De Guerre review: the Guy Ritchie Cinematic Universe widens

Operation Fortune: Ruse De Guerre
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Jason Statham. Aubrey Plaza. A very mad Hugh Grant. Welcome to Guy Ritchie’s new film, Operation Fortune.

The much-delayed new film from Guy Ritchie opens with a fetching pair of trousers. There’s a nice shot of London. A tank, too. A bunch of things thrown together in a manner not unreflective of what’s going to follow.

Operation Fortune: Ruse De Guerre is co-writer and director Guy Ritchie back towards the spy genre he had so much fun with in The Man From UNCLE. It’s well known he was planning a follow-up to that, but the box office count said no. Perhaps unsurprisingly, he’s found a new way back in, with a decent enough caper that occasionally finds a bit of spark. And a quality expense account too.

That account is in the name of Orso Fortune, played by The Statham, who’s clearly enjoying his time back in the Guy Ritchie Cinematic Universe (the GRCU, we’re up to about phase three). Fortune is an expensive man to hire, but if you’ve got Ukrainian mobster – it was made in different times, perhaps accounting for the lengthy delay in us getting the film – and a mystery device to retrieve, Fortune is your go-to.

Well, fortune and the always-wonderful Aubrey Plaza as Sarah Fidel. And then a plan involving a movie star – that’d be Josh Hartnett, as Danny Francesco – who’s brought in as part of the plan. All the while, Eddie Marsan gets the job of counting out how much all this costs (and he’s not happy about it), Guy Ritchie gets to stage a solid enough caper, that plays a bit more conventional than you might expect.

There’s a different world in which it would have been Ritchie who made the Kingsman movies, or was hired to direct a Mission: Impossible film. That world is this one in fact, with the globe being trotted and people worrying about cinema’s latest deadly USB stick. Computer nerds, as you’d expect, will be tutting at the lack of a decent firewall, and at encryption that couldn’t stop a toddler loading a Baby Shark video. But in return, you do get Cary Elwes in posh clothes, saying the word “poo”. A lot to be said for that.

A good cast then, a budget that affords enough space for some airline tickets, and a few wide open spaces that scream ‘fight scene’ as soon as characters walk into them. What it lacks for long periods is anything particularly distinctive, an identity to call its own.

Well, right up until Hugh Grant walks in. Post-Paddington 2 Hugh Grant’s collection of shits that he appears to give is relatively small, and in the case of Operation Fortune, he gives the kind of performance that Modern Hugh Grant has made his own. I can’t work out if he’s walked in from another movie, or taken a look at everything and figured he’s going completely the other way. But he’s rapidly becoming – as I say this as a Statham fan – the most vital component of the GRCU’s third phase. If things are wheezing a bit, just give Hugh a box of acting matches, and see what he can set fire too. He duly does so.

A word for Aubrey Plaza of course, even though she’s not particularly well served by the role itself. But still: as watchable as ever. And all eyes next on the phase four of Ritchie’s work, which features the already-shot The Covenant and a live action remake of Disney’s Hercules. Thus far, neither have Hugh Grant involved. Time will tell if that’s a tactical misfire.

Operation Fortune: Ruse Du Guerre is streaming now on Prime Video.

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