Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

The newest Guy Ritchie joint has arrived; this time seeing several familiar faces return in a rather straightforward action flick. Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre may appear at first glance to be yet another fast-paced Jason Statham actioner that is light on plot and heavy on thrills; this statement is really only halfway correct. While there is certainly plenty of action to be found during the climax, Operation Fortune is truly more focused on building its espionage-tinged world, and finding rather humorous ways for its characters to experience its oddities. Ritchie’s knack for a richly-sketched roster of suave-talking macho men continues in a rather fun yet empty take on a franchise-starting action formula.

Two nights ago, a mysterious, heavily-guarded, ten-billion-dollar piece of precious cargo was nabbed, leaving dozens of casualties in its wake. Now, Nathan (Cary Elwes, Saw, The Princess Bride) has been tasked with forming a “creative and cunning team” to retrieve the stolen merchandise, nicknamed “the Handle” before it heads on to the open market. Due to the time-sensitive nature of the operation, Nathan entrusts the incredibly capable, but pesky rule-breaker, Orson Fortune (Jason Statham, Crank, The Transporter) to carry out this crucial mission. Private contractor Orson is joined by comprehensive footman JJ Davies (Bugzy Malone, The Gentlemen) and new arms expert Sarah Fidel (Aubrey Plaza, Parks and Recreation, 2019’s Child’s Play).

The key to this covert mission is actually action movie star Danny Francesco (Josh Hartnett, The Faculty, Wrath of Man)—turns out billionaire arms dealer Greg Simmonds (Hugh Grant, The Gentlemen, About a Boy) is obsessed with Danny. He recently declined an invite to jump out of a cake for ten million dollars, but it doesn’t take much convincing to get Danny on board for the role of a lifetime: himself. Nathan has some serious dirt on Danny, enough to blackmail him into submission. Danny becomes the celebrity Trojan horse through which Fortune and his comrades will infiltrate Simmonds’s defenses. Much of the film’s fun lies in the meta elements, with the big action actor forced to embrace his inner movie star. Big, explosive action scenes pepper the film’s back half, though the CGI is occasionally quite spotty.

The film ultimately fails to deliver anything substantial apart from some entertaining hand-to-hand combat, a solid car chase sequence, and a handful of solid performances. Hugh Grant is an obvious scene stealer, but Plaza takes great joy in embracing Sarah’s flirtatious sexual innuendos. She practically steals the show despite a rather stacked cast. Hartnett is also fun to watch, playing an exaggerated actor in a way that recalls Nicolas Cage’s recent performance in The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent. Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre was rather underwhelming overall, but does leave room for sequel territory that has a chance of improving upon the basis for what was built here. I laughed more than a few times, and the cast alone is reason enough to recommend.

Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre infiltrates theaters everywhere on Friday, March 3rd.

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