Operation Fortune Review: Aubrey Plaza Kicks Ass in a Throwback Guy Ritchie Thriller

Operation Fortune Review: Aubrey Plaza Kicks Ass in a Throwback Guy Ritchie Thriller


From awards shows to heist thrillers, there’s nothing that can’t be improved by a little Aubrey Plaza. Though Guy Ritchie’s latest crime comedy may feel ten years behind the ball, his casting of Plaza as a badass operative proves he’s not completely out of touch.

Bearing the clunky title “Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre,” Ritchie had no trouble assembling an impressive A-list ensemble for the action-packed caper — mostly of the British variety. As the ever-reliable Jason Statham and Hugh Grant go head to head, Plaza steals the show with her killer instincts and comedic timing. If she can keep an operation this overstuffed afloat, there’s nothing she cannot do.

“Operation Fortune” boasts a grab bag of familiar elements that don’t entirely cohere, including a cranky leading man and a movie star playing a movie star bit that doesn’t quite land. The plot revolves around a reluctant free agent named Orson Fortune (Statham), who is abruptly yanked from vacation by his genteel handler Nathan (Cary Elwes). They’ve been tapped by the British government (solely represented by Eddie Marsan) to retrieve a mysterious package called The Handle, which is fetching $10 billion on the big-time black market. The deal is being brokered by arms dealer Greg Simmonds (Hugh Grant doing his best Michael Caine), an eccentric billionaire with a soft spot for movie stars.

Fortune’s team includes droll hacker Sarah (Plaza), quiet sharpshooter J.J. (Bugzy Malone), and Greg’s favorite movie star, the fictional Danny Francesco (Josh Hartnett). Casting the former teen heartthrob as an A-lister so famous that international gangsters want his picture is a bold move; it’s been over a decade since Hartnett garnered that kind of attention on the big screen, although his TV stock has never been higher. Though Hartnett has a certain charm as the daffy diva who’s in over his head, the gimmick is played entirely straight, which feels like a missed opportunity for some winking humor.

An expert at shining bright in any situation, Plaza slips effortlessly into the Ritchie-verse while still peppering the high-stakes circumstances with her own dry and flirtatious wit. She adds her special sauce to the most basic of lines, such as: “They have some sort of adolescent firewall, it’s taken me about a minute to perforate it.” And who can resist watching her charms melt Statham, Hartnett, and Grant all at once? Plaza easily builds a rapport with each blustering man, highlighting their best qualities and exploiting them for her own use. Though Ritchie gives her ample screen time and a brief but badass shootout, it’s only a shame he didn’t go even further with the character, revealing her to be the puppet master behind these battling egos. (He’s still Guy Ritchie, after all.)

Though she’s by far the most interesting character, Plaza isn’t entirely alone in carrying the comedy, and the script is packed with enough sharp quips to distract from the convoluted action and thinly sketched characters. The banter between Orson and his handler is charmingly familial, and the gruff special agent’s penchant for rare wine and always getting the best hotel room works well as a running gag. When raiding a safe, Orson handily stashes a large blue diamond necklace that looks exactly like The Heart of The Ocean, of “Titanic” fame. Statham hasn’t lost his luster, which he proves with the cool confidence of lines like, “It’s been awhile, but I’ll feel my way. It’s only a chopper.”

Written by Ritchie with Ivan Atkinson and Marn Davies, the script clips along at a brisk enough pace. Though the general contours of the story are fairly predictable, there are enough wrenches thrown in to keep things interesting. That can sometimes feel like a distraction, however, from the caricature-like players and basic premise. If Ritchie wanted to establish Orson as capable of helming a franchise, he should have given him a little back story and a slightly meatier motivation than rare wine. Instead, he feels like an amalgam of James Bond, Jason Bourne, and Danny Ocean. Of course, it doesn’t help Statham that Plaza is so obviously running the ship — perhaps someone might like to develop an action franchise for her?

Initially slated for a 2022 release, “Operation Fortune” was reportedly held due to two the presence of two Ukrainian gangster characters. While that’s not enough delay to explain why it feels about ten years too late, something about throwing one badass woman into a sea of half-baked male characters offers a clue.

Grade: B-

STX releases “Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre” in theaters on Friday, March 3.

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