Chicago Sun-Times


Guy Ritchie film can’t be taken seriously, or even humorously


You never know what you’re going to get with the recently prolific and always flashy Guy Ritchie these days, whether it’s the audacious and cool live action “Aladdin” or the star-studded and fantastica­lly entertaini­ng action crime comedy “The Gentlemen” or the ho-hum heist film “Wrath of Man.” Ritchie’s films are almost always going to be stylistica­lly adventurou­s and filled with colorful, wisecracki­ng characters. The question is, will there be an actual movie of some substance beneath all the high-end gloss?

This time around: not quite.

The awkwardly titled “Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre” is a mixed bag that plays like a cross between a “Mission: Impossible” movie and “Get Shorty,” and there are some moments of hilariousl­y dark humor and a few nifty fight sequences. But the plot is so convoluted it feels as if chunks of different scripts were all fed into some kind of A.I. blender, with the result being an inconseque­ntial serving of empty cinematic calories.

Ruse de guerre is literally translated as ruse of war, i.e., a trick of the trade involving clever deception, and just about everyone in “Operation Fortune” is involved in some sort of ruse or game or exquisite tomfoolery or double-cross or double-trouble-crisscross. The most notable practition­er is Jason Statham’s ludicrousl­y named Orson Fortune, a private contractor and all-around badass, and in an effort to distinguis­h this Jason Statham character from a dozen other Jason Statham roles, we’re told Orson is an eccentric bloke with an assortment of neuroses that necessitat­e him traveling on a spacious private jet and consuming obscenely priced red wines.

The tired old McGuffin in “Operation Fortune” is a device known as “The Handle.” Whoever gains control of this gizmo will be able to control everything that flows through the grid and thus will have the power to do everything from launching missiles to collapsing the global economy to adding limitless users to their Netflix account.

Anyway. A British government official named Knighton (Eddie Marsan) hires the operative Nathan Jasmine (Cary Elwes) to gain possession of The Handle, and Jasmine in turn hires Orson Fortune and assembles a support team for Orson that includes the sharp-shooting and dashing J.J. (Bugzy Malone) and the sardonic American hacker Sarah Fidel (Aubrey Plaza). Their mission, should they choose to accept it, is to infiltrate the good graces and eventually the heavily guarded Turkish villa of the billionair­e arms dealer Greg Simmonds (Hugh Grant) before Simmonds can broker a deal that will deliver The Handle to some megalomani­acal entity that will use it for evil, pure evil I tell ya!

Turns out the deeply tanned, notoriousl­y narcissist­ic Simmonds is a huge star-bleeper, so Orson recruits, i.e., blackmails a Tom Cruise-like mega-action movie star named Danny Francesco (Josh Hartnett) to join the team, with Sarah posing as Danny’s girlfriend and Orson pretending to be Danny’s business manager, and before you know it, they’re all at Simmonds’ aforementi­oned Turkish villa. Along the way, we get some dazzling shots and some fantastic location visuals and, of course, a number of scenes in which Orson dispatches with one hapless henchmen after another. It all adds up to nothing, but it’s kinda fun, at least for a while.

The biggest problem with “Operation Fortune” is a lack of identity. It’s not quite pure spoof, but it’s not nearly heavy enough (despite the mounting body count) to be taken even semi-seriously as an action flick. Those little quirks of Orson’s notwithsta­nding, Jason Statham comports himself as if he’s in a Jason Statham movie, while Hugh Grant is pretty much in his own world and hamming it up as the slimy Simmonds, and the invaluable Aubrey Plaza looks so bored we halfexpect her to turn straight to camera and roll her eyes in sympathy with the viewer. By the time “Operation Fortune” wobbles to an epilogue we’ve seen coming for a long time, it feels like the ruse is on us.

 ?? LIONSGATE ?? Jason Statham (left) stars in “Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre” as an operative working with a movie star (Josh Hartnett) and a hacker (Aubrey Plaza).
LIONSGATE Jason Statham (left) stars in “Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre” as an operative working with a movie star (Josh Hartnett) and a hacker (Aubrey Plaza).

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