The Pitch: It’s the same old spy-game story: A group of mysterious mercenaries (Ukrainian here, though the film mutes most explicit mentions of their nationality; the film was delayed from a 2021 release once Russia invaded Ukraine, making the baddie’s nationality an exercise in bad taste) steals a briefcase from Odessa with a mysterious world-ending something in it.
Whatever it is, the powers that be want it and are willing to pay spy-for-hire Orson Fortune (Jason Statham, as scowly as ever) to retrieve it. With the help of his effete supervisor Nathan Jasmine (Cary Elwes), fixer J.J. Davies (Bugzy Malone), and tech expert Sarah Fidel (Aubrey Plaza), they figure out that the sale of this particular MacGuffin is being facilitated by foppish billionaire Greg Simmonds (Hugh Grant, doing his best Michael Caine).
The best way to get into Simmonds’ inner circle and disrupt the sale? Why, recruit his favorite movie star, Danny Francesco (Josh Hartnett), to distract the celebrity-obsessed mogul. Together, they may pull it off… if they can fend off the machinations of rival contractors and the many goons aching for a taste of Statham’s fist.
The Unbearable Weight of Wasted Talent: It used to be that Guy Ritchie was one of Great Britain’s signature connoisseurs of style. If he wasn’t constantly auditioning for a Bond picture, he at least felt comfortable with style parodies that catered to his bold idiosyncracies (The Man From U.N.C.L.E., the Sherlock Holmeses).
But the awkwardly-titled Operation Fortune: Ruse de guerre is one of Ritchie’s most listless gestures toward that end, an action-comedy seemingly disinterested in both descriptors. Instead, there are vague gestures to the Bondian derring-do this kind of movie requires, from tuxedo-clad undercover gigs on yachts to car chases around winding cliffside roads, to firing rockets from a helicopter.
But it’s staged with a lifelessness it’s hard to believe Ritchie is capable of — save for a few cheeky cuts or the odd split-screen here and there, it’s got about as much visual style as The 355 or any other straight-to-VOD clunker.