Say this for “Operation Fortune,” and say this first: Hugh Grant is having a ball.
The actor, slicker and smarmier than he was in his rom-com heyday, has become a part of director Guy Ritchie’s firmament, and his foppish charm has been traded out for a kind of oily, sleek, disreputable sleaziness that somehow suits him at this point in his life. And Ritchie — with whom Grant first teamed on 2015’s “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” and again on 2019’s “The Gentlemen” — weaponizes his smug sophistication to great effect. You just can’t help but be lured into his world.
If only the world of “Operation Fortune” had more to offer.
“Operation Fortune” — the full title is the rather garish “Operation Fortune: Ruse de guerre” — is a globetrotting spy thriller and it’s full of expensive looking suits, expensive looking cars, expensive looking locations and expensive looking weaponry. It’s a Guy Ritchie movie all the way, a descriptor that used to mean something more around the turn of the millennium, but is now code for a kind of talky, moderately stylized crime picture about blokes doing bloke things.
Ritchie staple Jason Statham is Orson Fortune, a good guy super-spy hired by Nathan Jasmine (Cary Elwes) to track down something called “The Handle,” which is soon to be sold to the highest bidding bad guys. What’s “The Handle?” It kind of matters but not really. It’s what sets the plot in motion, and that’s what’s most important.
Fortune needs a team, and he’s partnered with tech and computer expert Sarah Fidel (Aubrey Plaza) and sharp shooter J.J. Davies (U.K. rapper Bugzy Malone). Their mission is to get to billionaire playboy and arms dealer Greg Simmonds (Grant) before he can sell the Handle, and the best way to do that is to indulge his man crush on Hollywood star Danny Francesco (Josh Hartnett), a doofy actor whom they enlist to gain access to Simmonds and his world.
The whole none of this really matters, but that’s the point conceit of the film is laid out in the opening minutes, and it’s all set up for the actors to romp their way through it all. Except outside of Grant, no one really does: Statham is Statham, and there’s a reason he’s not really known for his range; Plaza is having some fun but feels slightly hesitant to pull the ripcord on her performance; and Hartnett can’t quite locate the dopey charisma of a vain actor in over his head, blissfully unaware of how over his head he is. And so what should be a gas ends up feeling lead-footed, especially in the film’s cumbersome third act.
But Grant does find the right groove and locks in, and he steals every scene he’s in.
‘OPERATION FORTUNE: RUSE DE GUERRE’
Rated: R (for language and violence)
Running time: 1:53
How to watch: Now in theaters