Many people are of the opinion that Guy Ritchie has never again reached the high of his first two British gangster comedy movies – 1998’s Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and 2000’s Snatch. Part of their charm is that Ritchie worked with an ensemble of actors across those two movies including Jason Statham, Jason Flemyng, Alan Ford, and hardman footballer Vinnie Jones.
Since 2019, Ritchie has returned to gangster and heist flicks, and once again started working with a reliable bunch of actors across multiple films. Ritchie’s new crew consists of Hugh Grant, Eddie Marsan, Bugzy Malone, and Josh Hartnett, as well as Jason Statham – who has been picked back up by Ritchie after an almost two-decade gap.
Operation Fortune is also closest in spirit to Ritchie’s vastly underrated The Man From UNCLE (2015) – a brisk and breezy spy movie starring Henry Cavill – which just might be Ritchie’s best film (and which should have had a couple of sequels by now). The banter in UNCLE was absolutely sizzling, with some hilarious one-liners. That’s also the greatest strength of Operation Fortune – after the serious (but still enjoyable) Wrath of Man – Ritchie once again leans into his gift for writing comedic dialogue.
Operation Fortune was originally slated for release in January 2022, but was reportedly pulled, partly because some of the villains were identified as Ukrainian. The editing is somewhat chaotic as a result, and it does smack of re-recorded dialogue at the very least, if not some reshoots. The prologue certainly appears to be chopped up from a planned scene that was subsequently changed – but in this case, the intercutting of loud footsteps down the corridors of power works well.
This is our introduction to Nathan, very much a Charlie of Charlie’s Angels type (played by a suave-as-ever Cary Elwes) and his contact in the government, played by Eddie Marsan. This version of the British government is ludicrously well-funded, as they can afford private jets stocked with the best and rarest wines – all to lure and fuel superspy Orson Fortune (Jason Statham).
He assembles a crack team of hacker Sarah (Aubrey Plaza) and whizz-kid JJ (Bugzy Malone) to try to bring down billionaire arms dealer Greg Simmonds (Hugh Grant – relishing another cockney movie villain role after The Gentlemen). They keep getting thwarted by their rival Mike (Peter Ferdinando) and his crew, but that doesn’t stop them from recruiting movie star Danny Francesco (Josh Hartnett) to honey-trap Simmonds.
The international locations and the fabulous costume design (by Tina Kalivas) certainly bring the glamour that we last saw from Ritchie in The Man from UNCLE. Here, we’re in a billionaire’s playground though, and the movie certainly has some mixed messaging regarding the morality of billionaires. Simmonds may be an arms dealer, but hey – he’s funny and charming, we’re clearly meant to covet his lifestyle, and he gets to be extremely cool in the final act.
Back to the positives of this spy thriller movie though – the score by regular Ritchie collaborator Christopher Benstead is insanely good for the type of film that this is. It’s certainly way better than might be expected for a movie that was extremely close to getting dumped on streaming. Think of the sumptuous strings in iconic James Bond movie scores by John Barry or David Arnold, and that’s not far off the feel of the epic feel some of the scenes here.
The sound elsewhere is unfortunately not up the same standard as the score, with a lot of important dialogue taking place over phone calls which has not been seamlessly ADRed. This leads to British characters such as the Mancunian JJ (played by Malone), and other characters who are speaking English (but with maybe an Indian or Russian accent) to have subtitles (for American audiences at least). The subtitles end up being something of a distraction, because they’re so sporadic and inconsistent.
The casting and acting in Operation Fortune is its greatest strength, especially combined with the hilarious script. Hartnett and Grant are especially delightful together, and Plaza is having a whale of a time. Statham is back to what he does best – revisiting his previous Ritchie characters of Bacon and Turkish (his first two movie roles ever) and delivering dry British one-liners with aplomb.
While the editing is certainly chaotic at times, the final act is very well-made. The intercutting between Grant – who is delivering the speech of a lifetime – and Statham, who is doing what he does best (dispatching baddies, action movie style) is really well-crafted. We also get a sequel tease right at the end, which will remind audiences of how perfectly Ritchie teed-up a sequel at the end of UNCLE and some of us are still waiting for it with baited breath!
While Operation Fortune is uneven and messy at times, and tonally a little over-the-place too, it’s hugely enjoyable. It has more in common with The Man from UNCLE than The Gentlemen, with its glamourous international settings and action scenes. Not every joke lands, and your mood will vary in terms of how into Ritchie’s humour you are – but it’s great to see him getting to be really funny again. If you loved Lock, Stock and Snatch, there’s plenty to enjoy here. Ritchie has found some new muses – including Hugh Grant and Josh Hartnett – and it’s paying dividends.
Operation Fortune review
Operation Fortune finds Guy Ritchie back on the hilarious form we haven’t seen since his first two British gangster flicks, and channeling the glamour of his best movie – The Man from UNCLE. A brilliant cast deliver one liners with aplomb, in this hugely enjoyable spy thriller caper.