REVIEW: Operation Fortune: Ruse De Guerre (dir. Guy Ritchie)

Certificate: 15 (strong violence, language).

Running Time: 114 mins.

UK Distributor: Prime Video


Jason Statham, Aubrey Plaza, Josh Hartnett, Cary Elwes, Bugzy Malone, Hugh Grant, Peter Ferdinando, Eddie Marsan, Lourdes Faberes, Max Beesley, Bestemsu Özdemir, Kaan Urgancıoğlu, Antonio Bustorff


Guy Ritchie (director, writer, producer), Ivan Atkinson (writer, producer), Marn Davies (writer), Bill Block, Steven Chasman and Jason Statham (producers), Christopher Benstead (composer), Alan Stewart (cinematographer), James Herbert (editor)


A secret agent (Statham) enlists a Hollywood star (Hartnett) for a dangerous mission…


Over a year ago, the world was about to be hit with Guy Ritchie’s new spy caper Operation Fortune: Ruse De Guerre. Posters were displayed in cinemas, the trailer was constantly fronting multiple screenings, and it looked set to be a minor sleeper hit at the box office. After all, an on-screen reunion between Ritchie and regular star Jason Statham, in what looked to be a fun new riff on the old-fashioned spy caper, looked like something that would be best experienced on the big screen.

But then, mere weeks before its theatrical release, it was nowhere to be seen. The film was pulled suddenly from the schedule, and subsequently shelved for almost a whole year before finally landing in selected cinemas internationally, and on Prime Video in most other regions (as it has done in the UK). It was a bizarre turn of events, because this wasn’t a situation like two years prior, when the spread of COVID-19 was getting out of control and forcing distributors to rethink their plans. This was intended to be a major theatrical release, made by a well-regarded filmmaker with quite a starry cast at his disposal, and while the Omicron variant had kept some audiences at bay during the previous winter months, it wasn’t bad enough to force most films further back on the calendar.

In the months after its non-release, various possible explanations began to surface, from the collapse of original distributor STX Films to the film’s unflattering portrayal of Ukrainian mobsters being deemed inappropriate in the wake of Russia’s invasion of the country, but few felt definitive enough to explain why, after all that theatrical promotion beforehand, it was effectively being buried all of a sudden. However, having now finally seen the film, I would like to theorise that the movie got the shift because, in all honesty, it’s not worth the theatrical experience. That isn’t to say it’s bad – it’s competent, and at times quite amusing – but nothing about Operation Fortune: Ruse De Guerre screams “this needs to be seen on a big screen.” Hence, in my head canon, its newly limited exposure on streaming, which feel more appropriate for this movie.

The film quickly introduced us to the situation at hand: an unknown device known only as “the Handle” has fallen into the wrong hands and is due to be sold off to the highest bidder via broker and arms dealer Greg Simmonds (Hugh Grant). Government official Nathan (Cary Elwes) is assigned with putting together a small team of skilled operatives – including super-spy Orson Fortune (Statham), ace tech whizz Sarah (Aubrey Plaza), and sharpshooter J.J. (Bugzy Malone) – to infiltrate Simmonds’ deal and find out what the Handle actually is, and who is planning to buy it for whatever purpose. Upon discovering that Simmonds is a huge fan of Hollywood movie star Danny Francesco (Josh Hartnett), Fortune blackmails the actor into accompanying them on their mission, and keep Simmonds occupied while Fortune and his team do the rest of the work.

The set-up suggests something of a screwball nature mixed in with a Bond-baiting spy caper thriller, all with Guy Ritchie’s trademark playful filmmaking and writing style (with the director also sharing screenwriting credit with Marn Davis and fellow producer Ivan Atkinson). However, while the script is certainly filled with the kind of smart-aleck dialogue and twisty plotting that Ritchie has thrived with in past films, Operation Fortune: Ruse De Guerre feels oddly restrained in its execution, often lacking the director’s usual spark and playing things much safer than he normally tends to. Many scenes are simply just characters talking, either delivering necessary exposition or simply trying to out-smart each other, and they’re often shot rather statically, with little (if any) stylistic flair from the director, who seems to just want his film to be carried by the writing and nothing else within this visual medium. Even the action is no different to what you’d see in your average low-rent genre movie, with car chases and shoot-outs that feel very by-the-numbers, and once again with very little that’s on the screen to make itself stand out from the crowd.

None of it ever feels like it’s worthy of a big screen, which for a cast and crew of this magnitude feels like a slight waste of resources. The actors are certainly carrying their scenes well – including Jason Statham who leans into his reliable action movie charm on many occasions here, and a campily Cock-er-ney Hugh Grant who feels like an alternative universe version of his character from Ritchie’s previous film The Gentlemen, which ironically feels way more like a Guy Ritchie film than this one does – but few really liven the film as much as it perhaps needed to be (the closest is perhaps Aubrey Plaza, who brings some admirable deadpan personality to the proceedings). They mostly just stand there and deliver the dialogue that Ritchie and his co-writers have crafted, occasionally getting some chuckles from their deliveries alone, but rarely does it feel like the filmmaker is taking full opportunity of the talent he’s gathered for what should be a hugely entertaining ride.

Instead, it all tastes rather dry, like there’s a missing ingredient in this standard stew that you’ve been served – however, it isn’t as though the stew itself is completely helpless without it. There are enough amusing lines of dialogue to keep this very talky movie from getting too stuffy or uninteresting, the performances are serviceable, and for as little as Ritchie seems to deliver most of his usual kinetic style, you can still spot some personality traits along the way to at least recognise that this is a Guy Ritchie film, albeit one that’s nowhere near either the filmmaker’s top work or his very worst. For what it is, it’s okay, and passes the time with competent, but never unique, action and plotting.

Had this actually been released in cinemas last year like it was supposed to, I doubt that Operation Fortune: Ruse De Guerre would have stuck around for long in audiences’ minds, because it is pretty forgettable despite its undemanding watchability. Putting it on streaming after a year on the shelf suddenly makes a lot more sense.


Operation Fortune: Ruse De Guerre is a competent but forgettable spy caper from filmmaker Guy Ritchie, whose signature style is significantly restrained here in favour of a talky script that offers occasional wit but few real jolts of fun.


Operation Fortune: Ruse De Guerre is now available to stream on Prime Video.

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