Guy Ritchie has quite a lot of experience directing action films, but let’s be honest, not all of his recent movies have been hugely successful. While the Sherlock Holmes duology pleasantly surprised fans in 2009 and 2011, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. bombed at the box office four years later. This didn’t stop Ritchie, whose latest action comedy Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre was released in March – and is now available on Amazon Prime.

It was – you guessed it – a box office bomb, making less than $38 million against a budget of $50 million, and received pretty lukewarm critiques. Operation Fortune definitely wasn’t helped by its non-existent promotion (I only learnt about it after its release!), but did the film deserve the indifference that it got? Here are my thoughts on it:

Fast-paced from the start

The movie follows a fairly unique team of spies, who are asked by British secret services to retrieve a strange MacGuffin known as “the Handle” – though its exact nature remains unclear. To do so, the agents led by wine-loving super-spy Orson Fortune (Jason Statham) enlist the help of clueless movie star Danny Franscesco (Josh Harnett), and attempt to get close to eccentric billionaire Greg Simmonds (Hugh Grant).

Operation Fortune gets off to a flying start: viewers are immersed right away in the theft of the Handle, and our team of super-spies is assembled within the first 15 minutes. This fast-paced start is both a blessing and a curse: it avoids too much unnecessary exposition, but also means that no characters are really developed. They are mostly here to serve the plot and to trade jokes – some of which land, while others don’t.

The film’s biggest asset is definitely its pace: it never really stops or slow down, though there aren’t that many fights. In fact, Operation Fortune is more of a giant cat and mouse game, which allows Jason Statham, Hugh Grant and Cary Elwes as handler Nathan to deliver as many quips and punchlines as possible. The movie is presented as an action comedy, and it is indeed fun, all the way through its crazy end credits. For me, the visual gags work better than the sometimes forced jokes delivered by the cast. Hugh Grant is definitely a delight to watch as he chews up the scenery, and Statham does the job as an agent with a knack for fine wine and luxurious trips.

Similarly, the film features Danny Francesco, an in-universe superstar, and draws an interesting parallel between the work of actors and spies. As a fan of Bridget von Hammersmark and Inglourious Basterds, I was eager to see what this meta discourse would bring, but it ended up being only a pretext for more chases and quips.

So many spies, so little time 

This is the film’s biggest flaw: Operation Fortune features far too many characters (to the point where you can play literal Guess Who with them!) and as many interchangeable villains. The movie wants to go in so many directions that it never digs beneath the surface – quite ironic for a film which mocks shallow billionaires and movie stars! The idea to have the mysterious Handle as the main MacGuffin could also have been interesting, but backfires: the Handle’s nature is only revealed halfway through the film, too late for viewers to care about it – and without any spoilers, it is not worth the wait! This undermines Operation Fortune’s stakes: the threat is so unclear that the urgency to find the Handle is never palpable, meaning the team’s investigation feels quite pointless.

To the film’s credit, it does have an entertaining universe where super-spies all seem to be on a first-name basis with each other. Yet Guy Richie’s filming, which was quite creative in the Sherlock Holmes saga, here feels a lot less inspired. Don’t get me wrong, everything is well-filmed, but much like the rest of the movie, the cinematography seems like a waste of potential. If you really liked The Man from U.N.C.L.E., then I recommend giving this film a try, otherwise, you will want to sit this mission out. Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre is pretty close to a ghost train, if all the scares were replaced by car chases and brawls. It is one of those films which allows you to seat back and enjoy the ride, but don’t start thinking about it too hard or the magic sure will wear off!