[Screen It]


(2023) (Jason Statham, Aubrey Plaza) (R)

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Action: Government operatives blackmail a Hollywood actor into helping them infiltrate an arms dealer's world and discover what he's stolen and is planning on selling for ten billion dollars.

It's been discovered that billionaire arms dealer Greg Simmonds (HUGH GRANT) has hired criminals to steal an unknown device -- known only as "the handle" -- and is planning on selling it for $10 billion. Accordingly, MI6 official Knighton (EDDIE MARSAN) contacts operative Nathan Jasmine (CARY ELWES) to put together a team, discover what "the handle" is, and thwart whatever nefarious plans are associated with it.

He turns to his number one spy, Orson Fortune (JASON STATHAM), and assembles a small team to assist him including tech specialist Sarah Fidel (AUBREY PLAZA) and expert shot J.J. Davies (BUGZY MALONE), knowing full well that a rival team of operatives led by Mike (PETER FERDINANDO) is likely on the case as well.

Realizing they need an in to get into Simmonds' circle, Orson's team blackmails famous Hollywood actor Danny Francesco (JOSH HARTNETT) into helping them, knowing that Greg might just be his biggest fan. From that point on, they set out to infiltrate the arms dealer's world, discover what he's stolen, and stop any bad thing from happening.

OUR TAKE: 6.5 out of 10

The so-called Doomsday Clock made news recently as the Science and Security Board of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists decided to truncate the time until Armageddon midnight to just ninety seconds. That's in response to the Russian war in Ukraine and rising tensions between the Kremlin and most of the rest of the world, save for China that's determined to shave a few more seconds off that time.

Throw in still dealing with our multi-year Covid hangover, some folks seemingly wanting to start a second civil war in the U.S., and one's ever-increasing personal mortality, and the last thing most anyone wants to hear about is yet another threat to our perilous existence. That is, of course, unless said development is of the made-up kind that shows up in a diverting piece of entertainment.

Case in point is the somewhat awkwardly titled "Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre," an action flick that's the latest offering from filmmaker Guy Ritchie (who's previously helmed the likes of the newer "Sherlock Holmes" pics as well as "The Man From U.N.C.L.E." and "Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels").

Written by Ritchie and Ivan Atkinson & Marn Davies, the plot revolves around a mystery device -- nicknamed "the handle" by the worried powers that be -- that's been stolen and is about to be sold for the tidy little sum of ten billion dollars. All of which presumably means whoever's making the purchase is likely up to global no good.

Thus, it's up to a team hired by MI6 and led by Nathan Jasmine (Cary Elwes) to go all "Mission: Impossible" and figure out what was stolen and who's going to buy it from notorious billionaire arms dealer Greg Simmonds (a terrifically smarmy meets charming Hugh Grant who's having the time of his life playing the part).

With Nathan mostly behind the scenes, it's then up to our title character, Orson Fortune (Jason Statham doing pretty much what he always does in such films, but doing that quite well), and new to the fold Sarah Fidel (Aubrey Plaza emboding her droll, sarcastic 'tude as only she can) and J.J. Davies (Bugzy Malone) to save the day.

To get inside Simmonds' circle, they need an ace in their hand and they find that in movie star Danny Francesco (Josh Hartnett, also enjoying the role) who just so happens to be adored by the arms dealer. Blackmailing him into action, the small team sets out to figure out what the handle is, who's going to buy it, and what they intend to do with it, and then stop that from happening, all while a rival team led by Mike (Peter Ferdinando) repeatedly gets in the way.

What follows isn't remotely high art, but it's a fun and funny diversion that's entertaining more often than it's not, with good action scenes, snappy dialogue, and the right amounts of comedy thrown in for good measure.

I enjoyed it from start to finish, and despite revolving around a doomsday sort of plot, its escapism is done so well that you'll forget about the real world and its myriad of problems for a welcome respite. "Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre" rates as a 6.5 out of 10.

Posted March 3, 2023

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