For 25 years, I have never been a Guy Ritchie fan. I found the in-your-face and over-the-top crime dramas that made his reputation—“Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels,” “Snatch,” “Revolver,” and “RocknRolla”—blank—glamorous exercises in the hyperkinetic genre, so infatuated with the quietly-throated post-Tarantino. It was clear that Richie had talent, but the way every shot was done in his films was designed to remind you that the films turned out to be layers of cake that were more frosting than cake. After a while, he threw up his shine and settled into a more traditional career, and some of those movies were just fine. I admit, I enjoyed his remake of “Swept Away” (yes, the one with Madonna), and he enjoyed applying the rest of his high-foam ADD style to Robert Downey Jr.’s “Sherlock Holmes” franchise. However, I could never escape the feeling that Guy Ritchie had trapped himself on a hamster wheel trying too hard. I liked some of his movies. But I have never loved anyone.
So far. You might call “Operation Fortune: Ruse de guerre” a Ritchie caper classic, since it’s a fast-paced spy drama—aka crime thriller in which the good guys commit crimes—full of characters sporting a version of the game. Richie’s position. It starts with Jason Statham, who appeared in all of those early Ritchie movies (he made his big-screen debut in “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels”), playing Orson Fortune, an indomitable steel spy with a chess instinct and killer limbs. . Fortune works for the British government and, despite his gruff Cockney demeanor, has a taste for the high life that makes James Bond look shabby. The perks he requires to fulfill his missions include bottles of vintage wine so expensive that they have earned their own column in the MI6 budget.
Fortune reports to Nathan, an “M”-like character played by Cary Elwes with a sharp-tongued skill that makes him sound like a more educated version of the backroom workers in the “Kingsman” movies. The task he sets out for Fortune seems suitably daunting and, in its way, MacGuffin-ish. A mysterious package, called The Handle, is stolen with military force from a lab, and is put on the underworld market for $10 billion. Fortune has to discover the package (it’s a weapon, but not the one we think) and retrieve it.
“Operation Fortune” is a tough movie to conjure up and describe, as it fuses the DNA of so many familiar genres and franchises. It’s the adventure of an elite team of spies to save the world like the “Mission: Impossible” movies. It’s just as stunning and edgy as the Bourne movies. It’s a game that’s as intricately designed and executed as the “Ocean’s” movies. You might hear all of that and think: so what? These genres are played more than not, so why do we need Guy Ritchie on the back?
Because Ritchie, working from a script he wrote with Evan Atkinson and Marn Davies, has taken all of this and turned it into a movie that’s so smart and airy but so grounded with a devilish spunk I want it to be — one step ahead of the audience but also leading us — that it carries the charge of great comedy. It’s not just about the high-speed wit of the dialogue, though, when Aubrey Plaza appears as Sarah, a hacker with the dirty instincts of a racketeer who can also, when called for, be a deadpan femme fatale, the cerebral wordplay shimmers like gold dust.
It’s the movie, which, based on the fact that we know our 007 and “M:I” and “Ocean’s” maneuvers, doesn’t have those slight dead spaces where the heroes’ plans are set. to explain. Enough Operation Fortune tells us, treat the audience as part of the team. The film is incredibly fast and light on its feet about setting traps, getting in and out of situations, and walking along deadly glitches that turn into opportunities.
In addition to Sarah, with her authorized representative, Team Fortune includes JJ (Bugzy Malone), a sniper with the manners of a gentleman, as well as a wild card recruited from outside the spy circuit – Danny Francesco, an American movie star, also played by Josh Hartnett, appears as a parody of Brad house. It’s been a while since Hartnett himself looked like he was going to be a star, which it never was. But in “Operation Luck,” he’s lanky and enduring, and has the invisible X-factor of self-irony that the role requires.
Danny is tapped as bait to snare Greg Simmonds (Hugh Grant), a super-shady, witty and intelligent billionaire who brokers underground arms sales. He is a huge fan of Danny’s, and tried to hire him for some time to jump out of the birthday cake (which Danny refused). Danny and Sarah, posing as his girlfriend, show up with Fortune, posing as Danny’s business manager, at a charity party for war orphans that Simmonds throws on his yacht in Cannes. The entire point of their infiltration is to steal Simmonds’ cell phone, yet the sequence is as elegantly orchestrated as the party in “Notorious,” and it’s all built around some sort of double entendre’s mind game.
Fortune and his team rely on Simmonds’ ego – his desire to get close to a movie star, and his desire to court Sarah, whose presence makes Danny seem like little more than a prize. The whole team plays with him. But Hugh Grant, the film’s secret weapon, invests Symonds with such crisp layers that he plays with it, too. Grant, with his cheerful wedge-shaped grin, evokes the stunted tyranny of Michael Caine at its sinister worst, and this is a performance valuable Michael Caine. Grant’s Simmonds is satisfyingly competitive. He turns the smallest confrontation into a cat-and-mouse contest, and in doing so, steals the movie.
Not that the other actors are less than an ace. Statham, with age, has acquired an almost ghostly quality of elite killer competence, and he makes Orson Fortune an agent so cunning in his bravado that he’s funny. Statham, a lecherous nihilist, has most of the fight scenes in the movie, and they’re actually quite original, so geometric that you see how Fortune thinks, landing each blow as the shortest distance between two points (the points being: his will and death). The film shifts to the Simmonds’ villa in Turkey, where Danny and Sarah are hosting for the weekend, and what Fortune is in hand-to-hand combat Sarah to watch over – she’ll escape to the powder room and take to the world in a broken heartbeat.
There are other characters, all vividly drawn: a crew of Ukrainian mobsters (who also love Danny), a pair of biotech billionaires who are genius enough to be evil, and Fortune’s rival spy star – a secret team leader named Mike (Peter Ferdinando). ), who is after the same thing and keeps spoiling plans. The movie, like the best “M:I” movies, strikes a perfect balance of action and intrigue, with notes of wicked comedy that pay off in unexpected ways. When, as a gift, the Simmonds give Danny a candy-apple-red Mustang with white stripes—that’s his favorite car he’s ever driven in a movie (he’s done his own thing!)—he’s sure to end up taking control of the car on a real vacation trip. But the movie doesn’t suddenly turn Danny into a hyperbolic action star. He’s still Danny – a genius poser who finds the role of a lifetime playing himself.
The script for Operation Fortune is a gem, allowing this to be the rare word-driven thriller like an old Hollywood blockbuster. However, it’s Richie’s direction that makes every scene rock. His talent is on full display, though now it’s in perfect perspective. The yachting scene in Cannes is complex enough to rival what Tarantino came up with in “Inglourious Basterds,” and the climax, which takes place in the power tower of those leading biotech corporations, revolves against expectations around one of the film’s characters that is just exhilarating enough. Sparingly used helicopter shots expand the action with an almost musical visual flair. All of this makes me want to go back and watch the first Guy Ritchie movies again. Will I change my mind about them? Mostly not. But with Operation Fortune, Ritchie is now ruling. In this movie, he is like Howard Hawks in overdrive. Tom Cruise, Barbara Broccoli, and everyone else in Hollywood: Look out.
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