Review – Gangsta Guy (“Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre”)

This movie has an unusual history: originally planned for a January 2022 release, it was pulled from theaters because the main bad guys were Ukrainian! Yikes! It was released (streaming only) overseas last year for a test run, re-edited, and now it’s finally arrived on our shores.

Mixing elements of spy movies like 2015’s Spy, all the 007 films, the Oceans heist franchise, and Team America: World Police, there’s usually a McGuffin that gets stolen by some bad guys that needs to be recovered by the good guys, right? Well, in this case, the McGuffin in question is a dangerous device known as the “Handle” that’s worth $10 billion. The British government has handler Nathan Jasmine (Cary Elwes) wrangle his best super-spy, cock-sure Orson Fortune (Jason Statham) to lead a team to go get the asset. Orson meets ultra-computer hacker Sarah Fidel (Aubrey Plaza) and sharp-shooter JJ Davies (Bugzy Malone) and together they attempt to retrieve a valuable hard drive, but they’re thwarted by Mike (Peter Ferdinando), Orson’s old colleague who’s now a rogue contractor who wants that Handle as well. Problem is, the Handle has a broker now.

Needing a way in, Orson and his team blackmail Hollywood action superstar, Danny Francesco (Josh Harnett), to pose as himself as they infiltrate the world of billionaire arms dealer, Greg Simmonds (Hugh Grant), who is brokering the sale of the Handle to the highest bidder. Danny, at first scared and confused over his ‘role’ in this spy caper, soon fits right in and starts to enjoy his time with Greg, who loves his new actor friend. Ah, but there’s spy business to be had and while Nathan sits comfortably in his hotel room calling the shots, Orson is either killing or beating guys up, Sarah is pretending to be Danny’s girl and hacking into this & that, and JJ is provided back up with his trusty sniper rifle.

As they globe-trot from London to Turkey to Qatar, they chase after that elusive Handle and the devastating computer program it contains. Finally, in the third act, the action gets going and the good guys acquire the oh-so-special McGuffin briefcase and save the world! Yaay! I’ve seen my fair share of Guy Ritchie films, and I can honestly say that this is the weakest one of them all. Written by Ivan Atkinson & Marn Davies (Wrath of Man) and director Guy Ritchie, there is something terribly wrong about this movie. All the elements are there but they just fall flat starting with a flimsy, watered-down, paper-thin recycled plot and generic bad guys that are mercilessly killed all over the place. Geez! What is this, a Steven Segal film? Hardly the kinda stuff that Ritchie has given us before!

The dialogue is weak and it doesn’t help much when the actors look tired and bored saying them, with the exception of Hugh Grant, who always delivers, even in a bad movie. Then there’s no fast pacing, a staple in Ritchie films. It’s been usurped by a ridiculous soundtrack that dares to believe you’re watching an “exciting moment” just because the music suddenly blares it! A guy running down a street with a dramatic ‘throoommmmmm‘ in the music doesn’t mean it’s exciting! LOL! It doesn’t work that way! And then there’s the Oceans 8/The 355 impossible level of computer hacking skills that these people have to tap into any system to do anything, anytime, with never any problems ever. The effortless voice-cloning scene broke me.

And what the hell happened to Ritchie’s slam-bang unique style of direction? One has only to look at his amazing style of direction in films like the two Sherlock Holmes with RDJ, The Man from UNCLE, and The Gentlemen to see it. But here it looks like even he’s bored or slumming it. There’s barely any of that Ritchie zip or pizzaz that we’ve come to expect. Oh sure, there are a few key moments where you can see it, especially in the chase scenes, but how about the rest? The movie just drags and wants to be so much better than it is. Statham gets in one or two good fights, Aubrey Plaza is wonderful but wasted, and Elwes looks like he yearns to be funnier. Trust me, this movie will be on cable in a month or two. 

**Now showing only in theaters

Team America: World Police (2004)

How about North Korean leader Kim Jong-il turning out to be an alien cockroach from the planet Gyron? Yup, that’s what happens in this hysterical “super-marionette” movie from the minds of South Park creator’s Trey Parker and Matt Stone. And no, Kim Jong-il didn’t threaten us before or after this movie came out.Patterned after the 1960’s British TV series, Thunderbirds, where the ‘actors’ are marionettes and the strings are clearly seen, this R-rated version is raunchy, racy, and downright subversive in its story and script. No one is safe. Team America: World Police is a paramilitary, anti-terrorism force that calls its home base inside Mount Rushmore. The team consists of psychologist Lisa (Kristen Miller voiced), her love interest, Carson (Trey Parker), psychic Sarah (Masasa Moyo), the team jock, Joe (Matt Stone), and martial artist, Chris (Stone again), who hates actors. The team is led by Spottswoode (Daran Norris), and a supercomputer named I.N.T.E.L.L.I.G.E.N.C.E. (Phil Hendrie).

After trying to foil a terrorist attempt in Paris (and seriously botching it up) they lose a team member and recruit a Broadway actor named Gary Johnston (Parker again) to help with their new assignment: North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il (Parker) is supplying international terrorists with WMD’s. To gain information, Gary uses his acting skills to infiltrate a terrorist organization in Cairo, but the team leaves the place in ruins with their zeal for overkill.

The Film Actors Guild (F.A.G.) comprising of Alec Baldwin and many others actors (all voiced by Parker or Stone), criticizes the blatant use of violence that Team America uses, especially after the terrorists retaliate by blowing up the Panama Canal. Gary blames himself after the Team is nearly killed and almost drinks himself to death, vomiting up his body weight in an uproariously sickening scene. In the film’s finale, Gary must go through a montage (there’s even a song about it!) to get back his courage and go into North Korea to save his kidnapped Team and face Kim Jong-il himself. The scene where Team members are attacked by “giant panthers” (kittens!) is where I lost it in the theaters!

Written by Stone, Parker, and Pam Brady and directed by Parker, this irreverent semi-musical is SO freakin’ funny, I LOL every time I see it. It’s outrageously outrageous, and doesn’t care who it offends. The sight gags are plentiful and the songs are impossibly likable (“America! F**k, Yeah!“) Kim even sings a lament about being lonely. If you see the unrated version, it gets even MORE disgusting, if that’s possible. This is a seriously hysterical movie that never fails to make me laugh.

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