Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre

Guy Ritchie (Snatch, Swept Away, Sherlock Holmes) is a dependable director. Mostly. Hardly disappointing, sometimes wowing, mostly churning out predictable actioners — his last one,

The Wrath of Man, starring Jason Stratham, was, again, mostly a fine, simple action film.

Ritchie, if anything, knows how to make an engaging, if conventional fodder that should, by all means, litter the annals of cinema. Believe you me: cinema needs these functional pieces of forgettable throw-away movies as desperately as it needs the classics.

So, when Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre, hit screens worldwide, one would’ve expected, at the very least, a Guy Ritchie regular.

How wrong we were.

Surprisingly only released internationally with news of a domestic US release on a streaming service pending at the time of this writing, Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre — shortened to the weird, gurgle sounding abbreviation of OFRdG — the film has, so far, received one scant review from Slant; and quite a negative, and unreservedly deserved one at that too.

Director Guy Ritchie’s Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre starring Jason Stratham is a limp adventure while Mister Mummy is simply asinine

Jason Stratham is the title character Orson Fortune, a private contractor for the government who just wants to have a quiet vacation. Lumped on to him are spy-shenanigans involving missing suitcases, hard drives, codes, bombs, stopovers from London to Madrid to Cannes to Antalya to Doha, billionaire tech geeks, and the usual assortment of wisecracking cohorts played by Bugzy Malone, Aubrey Plaza and Cary Elwes. Think Mission: Impossible, but lite.

Also, because the screenplay isn’t clear on what it wanted — maybe writers Ivan Atkinson, Marn Davies and Ritchie wanted to stuff everything in, in place of an actual plot — Orson and Co seize a superstar film actor whom the villain, another billionaire, is a fan of, to help them out.

The actor here is Josh Hartnett — the only saving grace of the film; the billionaire-villain is Hugh Grant, in a persona that somehow apes Michael Caine.

Ritchie leaves his talent and style behind to tell a story that has weaker punchlines than Stratham’s punches which, by the way, also looked dog-tired. Lacking whatever you think you want in movies, OFRdG is a limp adventure — the type that got one-star ratings (out of five) in thick video movie guides that film buffs used to collect back in the VHS days.

Produced by Miramax and released by HKC Entertainment in Pakistan, OFRdG is rated PG-13

Mister Mummy

Following the string of bad releases, we have Mister Mummy (MM) — an unfunny, amateurishly made, shoddily acted, cringe-fest from debut writer Ananya Sharma and, by now, experienced director Shaad Ali.

Once Mani Rathnam’s assistant director, whose Tamil language film Alai Payuthey was remade into Ali’s Bollywood debut, Saathiya, followed by Bunty aur Babli, the Ali Zafar-Ranveer Singh starrer Kill Dill, and recently Soorma, here one wonders what inexplicable and unfortunate turn of events sapped away every last sliver of basic filmmaking intellect from the director.

MM is a slapdash farce about a children-hating PE teacher (Ritesh Deshmukh) of a high-end school in the United Kingdom’s fictitious Birthtown — a school that has only one Caucasian boy amongst Indians.

Given the number of ex-pat children, one deduces that this must be the same school Karan Johar and Aditya Chopra’s earlier films were set in. MM, however, is not a wholesome, big-budget family drama.

The PE teacher is cruel and angry. During the very cheaply designed title sequence (misaligned, skewed, badly sized orange and yellow words in an unwisely chosen font, set on a black background), we see the man harassing the dozen children he mentors. Punishing kids for being kids, and attending his obligatory class, he calls out one boy to fill a water bottle with his tears; the boy complies by putting the flask on his eye, and probably fills it up.

His hate is cruel to such a degree that he doesn’t want to impregnate his wife (Genelia Deshmukh), but when he does — and after he tells her to abort the baby several times — he, somehow, impregnates himself, according to his doctor (Mahesh Manjrekar).

MM is pathetic, inane, and probably all the other words of condemnation one can throw at it. The characters make little sense, while the plot was conceived with no sense at all.

Every actor, for some inexplicable reason, is framed by the cinematographer as if they should be talking directly to the audience via the lens — even if two characters are talking to themselves and dialogues don’t fit this particular aesthetic call (the cinematographer is Sunita Radia, who shot Baadshao, Hate Story IV and Narendra Modi, and the editor is Vaishnavi Krishnan, the assistant editor of Mom and Neerja).

By this futile film’s finish — Spoiler Alert! — we are told that the man’s bulging tummy is the side effect of the Couvade syndrome (also referred to as sympathetic pregnancy) where some soon-to-be fathers experience some symptoms of their partner’s pregnancy.

MM, irrespective of its box-office failure — it came and went this past November — is caught up in a plagiarism controversy. The story was, allegedly, designed to be an Ayushman Khurana film with the title Vicky Pait Se by the Kolkata-based producer Akash Chatterjee (there is a badly lit, badly shot, Pait Se song in this film, by the way).

I don’t know whether that version would have been a good movie or not, but if one wants to watch something on the same lines, give the Arnold Schwarzenegger-Danny DeVito starrer Junior a shot. Twenty-nine years later, that mediocre film will come off as a laugh-riot in comparison.

It is sad to see the Pakistani audience covet substandard Bollywood fodder with such flabbergasting fervidity, because Mister Mummy, at the time of writing, four days after its debut on Netflix, rules the streaming service’s Top 10 slot.

Produced by T-Series and Hectic Cinema, Mister Mummy is rated suitable for ages 18 and up for adult themes, bad dialogues and crass asininity

Published in Dawn, ICON, January 22th, 2023

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