Your enjoyment of Operation Fortune largely depends on how much you like Guy Ritchie. That should probably go without saying, but everything about the film is 100% Ritchie with all the staples you’d expect: kinetic action, fast-paced one-liners, Jason Statham, and certain scenes shown out of order for no apparent reason. Ritchie once again executes these tropes well, although Operation Fortune lacks the flare of his most influential films. In many respects, Operation Fortune is to Ritchie what The French Dispatch is to Wes Anderson. Fans will get what they paid for, but for a director considered something of an auteur, he doesn’t step foot out of his comfort zone.
There is one fresh aspect that helps Operation Fortune to stand out from the rest of Ritchie’s filmography: Aubrey Plaza. Between her work in Emily the Criminal and The White Lotus, Plaza seems to be at a significant turning point in what’s already been an impressive career. While Operation Fortune might not go down as her best project to date, Plaza’s star power helps elevate this spy comedy from average to fairly fun. Although Plaza plays the sardonic wisecracker we’ve grown accustomed to, the film also allows her to stretch her mussels as a bombshell and action heroine. Plaza might get second billing after Statham, but she’s the main reason to see this movie.
That’s not to say Statham doesn’t deliver the goods, but he can essentially play the sharp-tongued badass in his sleep by this point. The supporting cast also brings a lot to the table with Hugh Grant essentially playing a variation of his character from Ritchie’s The Gentlemen. Surprisingly, this is Cary Elwes’ first collaboration with Ritchie. Being such a charismatic Englishman, you’d think that Elwes would’ve popped up in a Ritchie film sooner. Imagine Elwes as Sherlock Holmes! Better late than never, though. The one player who feels underutilized is rapper Bugzy Malone, whose character feels devoid of personality compared to the rest of the colorful crew. Maybe he’s supposed to be the straight man, but it seems more like the screenplay forgot to give him a personality.
Josh Hartnett delivers one of his funniest performances as a prima donna actor asked to go undercover in the role of a lifetime. We’ve seen this setup executed in other films like Team America and The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent. Those films admittedly utilized the espionage actor premise with more wit. Operation Fortune could’ve benefitted from giving Hartnett more time in the spotlight. Regardless, Hartnett makes the most of his screen time.
The cast and Ritchie’s direction compensate for a forgettable plot. You might’ve noticed that I’ve mentioned little about the story, which essentially plays out like every other spy film ever made. Mere days after the screening, I’m struggling to even remember the MacGuffin that our heroes are after. I suppose I could look that up on Wikipedia, but the story is honestly an afterthought. We’re here for the style, the set pieces, and the Plaza. Operation Fortune may otherwise blend in with a dozen other undercover movies, but those eager to accept this mission know what they’re getting into.