Review: ‘Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre,’ starring Jason Statham, Aubrey Plaza, Josh Hartnett, Cary Elwes, Bugzy Malone and Hugh Grant

March 6, 2023

by Carla Hay

Jason Statham, Josh Hartnett and Aubrey Plaza in “Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre” (Photo by Dan Smith/Lionsgate)

“Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre”

Directed by Guy Ritchie

Culture Representation: Taking place in various countries in Europe and Asia, the action film “Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre” features a predominantly white cast of characters (with a few black people and Asians) representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy.

Culture Clash: A group of undercover operatives, who work for the British government, recruit a movie star to work with them on a mission, as they try to stop an illegal deal involving weapons of mass destruction, in order to save the world. 

Culture Audience: “Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of filmmaker Guy Ritchie, star Jason Statham, and formulaic and soulless spy movies.

Lourdes Faberes and Hugh Grant in “Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre” (Photo by Dan Smith/Lionsgate)

When does a movie about undercover operatives become boring and useless? When you can predict everything that will happen within the first 10 minutes of watching the film. “Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre” is so formulaic and lacking in creativity, you could literally fall asleep in the middle of the film and not miss much, because there isn’t much of a plot. This smug and cliché-plagued action flick is proof that Guy Ritchie and Jason Statham have gotten lazy in their movie collaborations. The fights look too fake. The whole film is a failure of imagination, motivated by greed and paid trips to exotic places.

Ritchie directed “Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre” from a screenplay that he co-wrote with Ivan Atkinson and Marn Davies. Ritchie, Atkinson and Davies previously collaborated on the screenplays for 2020’s “The Gentlemen” and 2021’s “Wrath of Man,” which were both also directed by Ritchie. The quality of each of these collaborations has rapidly decreased with each subsequent film.

Stop if you’ve heard this plot before: A ragtag group of undercover operatives jet back and forth to various countries to try to stop a “fill in the blank” from happening, in order to save the world. In the case of “Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre,” the mission is to stop a billionaire arms dealer from selling a stolen cargo of weapons of mass destruction, and to prevent these weapons from being available on the open market. This over-used concept describes every other big-budget spy film with an ensemble cast of stars, whose characters fight, get involved in car chases, dodge explosions, and maybe have a little romance along the way.

“Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre” (“ruse de guerre” means “ruse of war” in French) is a checklist of these stereotypes, without coming close to being as charming and funny as the movies thinks it is. Half of the principal cast members look like they’ve checked out emotionally and act no better than robots, while the other half of the principal cast members try to salvage the weak and derivative screenplay by playing their roles with a “tongue in cheek” tone that just looks awkward when they’re in the same scenes as their lackluster co-stars. It’s not the worst spy movie ever, but it shouldn’t be this bad, since the filmmakers and stars of this movie are capable of doing much better.

“Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre” (which was filmed in Turkey and Qatar but takes place in several countries in Europe and Asia) opens with a scene of a world-weary British government operative named Nathan (played by Cary Elwes) being somewhat annoyed, as he walks through a government building to have an office meeting with his supervisor: a no-nonsense and bland bureaucrat named Knighton (played by Eddie Marsan), who has summoned Nathan to this meeting on a Sunday morning.

Nathan is irritated because of the time and day of this meeting. Nathan apparently still doesn’t understand that he doesn’t have the type of job where the only work hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., from Monday to Friday. Nathan acting like he should have regular office hours is one of many ways that “Operation Fortune” makes these spy characters look like idiots. Knighton tells Nathan that 20 armed guards were killed two nights earlier, during an armed robbery that happened near Johannesburg, South Africa.

Knighton gives Nathan this order about the stolen cargo: “I want you to retrieve what went missing, and to find out who the seller is, who the buyer is, and what it is. It’s worth about $10 billion. it’s been given the name The Handle.” Translation: The screenplay is so sloppy and underdeveloped, the screenwriters didn’t bother to come up with any interesting details before this mission began. And if Knighton doesn’t know what the missing cargo is, how does he really know it’s worth $10 billion? It’s all just so illogical and stupid.

Knighton says to Nathan: “I need a creative, cunning and unconventional vision to retrieve this kind of mercurial threat. A courier on a bicycle in congested traffic. Not the official team. They’d take forever to wade through traffic, and the clock doth ticketh.”

First of all, “creative, cunning and unconventional” is not how to describe this movie. Second, who says nonsense like “The clock doth ticketh?” Third, the answer to that question: Only people in a badly written movie.

Nathan then begrudgingly assembles a team that includes these three core members for this mission:

  • Orson Fortune (played by Statham), a stern Brit, is described as having claustrophobia, agoraphobia and a penchant for having the British government pay for his lavish expenses, which he calls “rehab,” whether it’s for legitimate rehab or not.
  • Sarah Fidel (played by Aubrey Plaza), a wisecracking American, is a quick thinker and a computer technology expert.
  • JJ Davies (played by Bugzy Malone), a quiet and loyal Brit, has keen shooter skills and can handle himself well in a fist fight.

This is the type of idiotic dialogue in the movie. In the meeting between Nathan and Orson to get Orson to join the team, Nathan says, “[A] threat is imminent.” Orson asks, “How imminent?” Nathan replies, “Imminently imminent.”

Nathan is not looking forward to working with Orson, because Nathan thinks that Orson is too high-maintenance and problematic, but Knighton has ordered that Orson be on Nathan’s team. Meanwhile, Orson and Sarah have some friction with each other because they each think they are smarter than the other one. JJ is truly a token character who doesn’t say or do much except show up at the right times to help out in a fight. Nathan does some traveling with his crew, but for most of the movie, he’s giving orders while he’s in an office or away at a luxury resort.

Sarah used to work for Nathan’s fiercest operative rival Mike Hook (played by Peter Ferdinando), who also works for the British government, but Mike has a habit of poaching Nathan’s best employees. John Welch (played by Nicholas Facey) is a recently poached employee who currently works for Mike. Nathan thinks hiring Sarah for Nathan’s team is some sort of revenge that he can get on Mike.

“Operation Fortune” has several repetitive scenes showing Nathan and/or members of his team having snarling, sneering and sniping encounters with Mike and his team. After the third time this happens, you’ll feel like yelling at the screen: “We get it: Nathan’s people and Mike’s people don’t like each other!” Here are some choice words that Nathan has to say about Mike when Nathan is having a phone conversation with Knighton: “Mike only has two talents: blowing his cover and blowing himself.”

After Nathan and Orson go to Madrid to bring Sarah and JJ into their team, there’s a silly caper sequence that’s supposed to take place at Merchant Logo Adolfo Suárez Madrid–Barajas Airport, where a retired professor named Donald Bakker (played by Ian Bartholomew) with a brown crocodile briefcase has been identified as the “bag man” with an important computer data drive. Nathan’s team and Mike’s team are all spying on Donald at the airport at the same time.

Somehow, throughout the entire movie, Sarah seems to have video surveillance and wireless microphones everywhere. She works like a one-person, far-reaching command center to tell people, who are long distances away, everything she’s seeing while they all wear hidden ear pieces. Sarah also spends a lot of time directing people on where to go, as if they’re characters in a voice-activated video game.

Nathan’s team finds out that a billionaire arms dealer named Greg Simmonds (played by Hugh Grant) is involved in the deal to sell the stolen cargo. Greg (who is jaded and arrogant) and a dimwitted action movie star named Danny Francesco (played by Josh Hartnett) have a platonic bromance that heats up during the course of the movie. It’s a one-note joke that quickly gets old. Orson and Sarah come up with a plan to enlist Danny’s help to spy on Greg, by having Sarah pose as Danny’s girlfriend when Greg invites Danny to stay at Greg’s luxurious estate in Cannes, France.

Greg has several generically shallow people in his entourage, including a scowling assistant named Emilia (played by Lourdes Faberes); other employees named Trent (played by Tom Rosenthal) and Arnold (played by Oliver Maltman); and hangers-on/friends named Alexander (played by Tim Seyfi), Dmitry (played by Ayhan Eroğlu), Yiv (played by Savaş Ak), Natalya (played by Oleksandra Zharikova) and Katya (played by Mishel Lazarenko). These characters have no real purpose in the movie except to possibly add to the inevitable body count of murdered people.

“Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre” has no shortage of glamorous-looking locations, as these characters zip around to places such as Morocco, Quatar and Turkey. But having pretty-looking scenery just looks like an ineffective distraction to a flimsy plot. The movie’s fight scenes are underwhelming, while the jokes mostly fall flat, despite Plaza and Grant making an effort to bring some personality to this hack job pretending to be a thrilling spy caper.

“Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre” rehashes the same outdated spy-movie ensemble stereotypes of having a group of protagonists consisting of several macho men and one token woman. And (sexist cliché alert) she has to use her sexuality to accomplish her work goals, while the men never have to use their sexuality to accomplish their work goals. Filmmakers who resort to these tired clichés, when there are so many other options that are fresh and innovative, just expose how backwards their mindsets are when it comes to how women are presented in their movies. “Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre” has several scenes that show off how much money was probably spent to film the movie in exotic or pricey locations. But make no mistake: “Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre” is creatively bankrupt.

Lionsgate released “Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre” in U.S. cinemas on March 3, 2023. The movie was released in several other countries, beginning in January 2023.

Review: ‘Wrath of Man,’ starring Jason Statham

May 6, 2021

by Carla Hay

Holt McCallany, Jason Statham, Josh Hartnett and Rocci Williams in “Wrath of Man” (Photo courtesy of Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures)

“Wrath of Man”

Directed by Guy Ritchie

Culture Representation: Taking place in Los Angeles, the action flick “Wrath of Man” features a nearly all-male, predominantly white cast of characters (with some African Americans, Latinos and Asians) representing the middle-class, law enforcement and the criminal underground.

Culture Clash: A crime boss goes undercover as an armored truck driver to avenge the murder of his teenage son, who was killed during a heist of an armored truck.

Culture Audience: “Wrath of Man” will appeal primarily to people who want to see a predictable and violent movie with no imagination.

Raúl Castillo, Deobia Oparei, Jeffrey Donovan, Chris Reilly, Laz Alonso and Scott Eastwood in “Wrath of Man” (Photo by Christopher Raphael/Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures)

The fourth time isn’t the charm for director Guy Ritchie and actor Jason Statham in the vapid action flick “Wrath of Man,” their fourth movie together. It’s tedious and predictable junk filled with cringeworthy dialogue and stunts with no creativity. People who are familiar with Statham’s work already know that his movies are almost always schlockfests that are essentially about violence and car chases. However, Ritchie’s filmography is much more of a mixed bag. “Wrath of Man” isn’t Ritchie’s absolute worst film, but it’s a movie that could have been so much better.

Ritchie co-wrote the “Wrath of Man” screenplay with Marn Davies and Ivan Atkinson. The movie is based on the 2004 French thriller “Le Convoyeur,” directed by Nicolas Boukhrief and written by Boukhrief and Éric Besnard. Ritchie and Statham previously worked together on 1998’s “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels” (Ritchie’s feature-film debut), 2000’s “Snatch” and 2005’s “Revolver.” Whereas those three movies had plenty of sly comedy with brutal action, “Wrath of Man” is so by-the-numbers and soulless, it seems like a computer program, not human beings, could’ve written this movie.

The movie’s simplistic plot could’ve been told in 90 minutes or less. Instead, it’s stretched out into a nearly two-hour slog with repetitive and unnecessary flashbacks. In “Wrath of Man,” which takes place in Los Angeles, Statham plays a mysterious crime boss who’s out to avenge the murder of his son Dougie (played by Eli Brown), who was about 17 or 18 and an innocent bystander when he was shot to death by a robber during a heist of an armored truck.

Dougie’s murder (which is not spoiler information) is shown in a flashback about halfway through the movie. Until then, viewers are left to wonder who Statham’s character really is when he shows up at the headquarters of Fortico Security to apply for a job working as a guard in an armored truck. When he applies for the job, he identifies himself has Patrick Hill, a divorcé with more than 25 years of security experience. Later, viewers find out that it’s an alias; his real last name is Mason.

But he was able to create an entire false identity as Patrick Hill, with documents provided by his trusty assistant Kirsty (played by Lyne Renée), one of the few women with a speaking role in this movie. The false identity includes phony job references and a fake job stint at the now-defunct Orange Delta Security, which was a well-known company. Based on this elaborate scheme, Patrick is easily able to get a job at Fortico.

Fortico is described in the movie as one of the top armored vehicle companies that does cash pickups and deliveries in the area. The company’s clients include retail department stores, marijuana dispensaries, cash vaults, casinos and private banks. On a typical pickup or delivery, there are two or three employees in the truck: a driver, a guard and/or a messenger. The company isn’t huge (it only has 12 trucks), but it’s very profitable. A Fortico truck haul can total around $15 million a day, sometimes more.

Patrick is trained by Hayden Blair (played by Holt McCallany), who goes by the nickname Bullet. Almost everyone Bullet works with directly seems to have a nickname, so he immediately gives Patrick the nickname H, an abbreviation of Hill. Patrick/H goes through the training process (including gun defense skills) and he barely gets passing grades. He’s assigned to work with a cocky driver named David Hancock (played by Josh Hartnett), whose nickname is Boy Sweat Dave. Another colleague is Robert Martin (played by Rocci Williams), whose nickname is Hollow Bob.

When Bullet introduces H to these two co-workers, Bullet says, “He’s H, like the bomb. Or Jesus H.” The bad dialogue doesn’t get any better. H is told that he’s replacing a co-worker named Sticky John (who came up with these cringeworthy nicknames?), who died during a heist that killed multiple employees. The robbers got away, so the Fortico employees on are on edge about this shooting spree, which they call the Gonzo Murders. Boy Sweat Dave says, “We ain’t the predators. We’re the prey.”

The insipid dialogue continues throughout the entire movie. In a scene with some Fortico workers off-duty in a bar, Boy Sweat Dave is playing pool with Dana Curtis (played by Niamh Algar), the token female on Fortico’s armored truck crew. Dana says sarcastically to Boy Sweat Dave: “The point of the game is to get the ball in the hole.” Boy Sweat Dave snaps back, “The point of a woman is to shut the fuck up, Dana.”

Dana replies, “Well, that Ivy League education is really working for you, Boy Sweat.” (How can you say a line like that with a straight face?) Boy Sweat Dave retorts, “Pretty soon, you’ll all be working for me. The power is in this big head here.” Dana snipes back, “Well, it’s definitely not in your little head. Or are you still blaming the beer?”

The character of Boy Sweat Dave is an example of how “Wrath of Man” wastes a potentially interesting character on silly dialogue. What kind of person with an Ivy League education wants to work as an armored truck driver, a job which doesn’t even require a high school education? Viewers never find out because Boy Sweat Dave is one of several characters in the movie who are shallowly introduced, just so there can be more people in the body count later.

And because Dana is H’s only female co-worker, this movie that treats women as tokens can’t let her be just a co-worker. No, she has to serve the purpose of fulfilling H’s sexual needs too, since he and Dana have a predictable fling/one night stand. He finds out something about her when he spends the night at her place that helps him unravel the mystery of who killed his son.

It isn’t long before Patrick/H experiences his first heist as a Fortico employee. He’s partnered with Boy Sweat Dave, who’s driving, while H is the lookout. The heist is unrealistically staged in the movie as one of those battles where one man (in this case, H) can take down several other men in a shootout where a Fortico employee has been taken hostage by the thieves. Post Malone fans (or haters) might get a kick out of the scene though, since he plays one of the nameless robbers who doesn’t last long in this movie. H has saved his co-workers’ lives in this botched heist, so he’s hailed as a hero by the company.

Meanwhile, the FBI has been looking for Patrick because he’s been an elusive crime boss. There are three FBI agents, all very uninteresting, who are on this manhunt: Agent Hubbard (played by Josh Cowdery), Agent Okey (played by Jason Wong) and their supervisor Agent King (played by Andy Garcia). Hubbard and Okey come in contact with Patrick/H, when they investigate the botched robbery where Patrick/H ended up as the hero.

Agent King orders Hibbard and Okey not to let on that they know H’s real identity and to keep tabs on why this crime boss is working at an armored truck company. Eddie Marsan, a very talented actor, has a very useless role in “Wrath of Man,” as an office assistant named Terry. Terry becomes suspicious of who H really is, because in his heroic rescue, H showed the type of expert combat skills that contradicts the mediocrity that he displayed in the company’s training.

And just who’s in this group of murderous thieves? They’re led by mastermind Jackson (played by Jeffrey Donovan), a married man with two kids who lives a double life. This seemingly mild-mannered family man works in a shopping mall. But he also apparently has time to lead a group of armored truck thieves, who pose as street construction workers when they commit their robberies. The robbers use a concrete mixer truck to block the armored truck and then ambush the people inside the armored truck.

What’s really dumb about “Wrath of Man” is that these armed robbers use the same tactic every time. In real life, repeating this very cumbersome way of committing an armed robbery would make them easier to catch, not harder. Apparently, these dimwits think that the best way to not call attention to yourself during a robbery is to haul out a giant concrete mixer truck.

Jackson’s crew consists of a bunch of mostly generic meatheads: Brad (played by Deobia Oparei), Sam (played by Raúl Castillo), Tom (played by Chris Reilly) and Carlos (played by Laz Alonzo), with Jan (played by Scott Eastwood) as the loose cannon in the group. Guess who pulled the trigger on Patrick/H/Mason’s son Dougie? Guess who’s going to have a big showdown at the end of the movie?

Of course, a crime boss has to have his own set of goons. Patrick/H/Mason has three thugs who are closest to him and who do a lot of his dirty work: Mike (played by Darrell D’Silva), Brendan (played by Cameron Jack) and Moggy (played by Babs Olusanmokun). There’s a vile part of the movie that shows Patrick/H/Mason ordering his henchman to beat up and torture anyone who might have information on who murdered Dougie. The operative word here is “might,” because some people who had nothing to do with the murder are brutally assaulted.

Mike has a conscience and he says that he won’t commit these vicious attacks anymore to try to find Dougie’s killer. Mike advises Patrick/H/Mason to think of another way to find the murderer. And that’s when Patrick/H/Mason got the idea to go “undercover” at Fortico, with the hope that he could catch the murderous thieves in their next heist on a Fortico truck.

And what do you know, this gang of thieves will be doing “one last heist” on a Fortico truck, to get a haul that’s said to be at least $150 million. What could possibly go wrong? You know, of course.

Ritchie’s previous film “The Gentlemen” (which was also about gangsters and theives) had a lot of devilishly clever dialogue and crackled with the type of robust energy that hasn’t been seen in his movies in years. And although “The Gentlemen” wasn’t a perfect film about criminal antics, it at least made the effort to have memorable characters and to keep viewers guessing about which character was going to come out on top. “Wrath of Man” is a completely lazy film that has no interesting characters, no suspense, and not even any eye-popping stunts. It’s just a silly shoot ’em up flick that’s as empty as Statham’s dead-eyed stares.

Metro Goldwyn Mayer (MGM) Pictures and Miramax Films will release “Wrath of Man” in U.S. cinemas on May 7, 2021.

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