Tag Archives: Cary Elwes

Ritchie Stew

Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre

by Hope Madden

Guy Ritchie’s latest, Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre, is neither the crisscrossing schemery of 2019’s The Gentlemen, nor the dour action plodder of 2021’s Wrath of Man. Although it has elements of both.

Like the former, the film delivers an incredibly talky tale of flippant action shenanigans undertaken by varying teams at cross purposes and boasts a delightful turn from Hugh Grant. Like the latter, it’s not very good and stars Jason Statham.

Statham plays Orson Fortune, a cantankerous special agent whose skillset is the only thing standing between some unknown item recently stolen and, you know, whatever it might do to the world.

That is the fun part. Fancy lad Nathan Jasmine (Cary Elwes) pieces together the team tasked with finding and returning the missing “handle” although no one knows what it is, so determining that bit will be useful as well. Figuring out who took it, why they took it and what they mean to do with it, then stopping them from doing it, whatever it is, represents the balance of the job.

Who’s to help Mr. Fortune? Bugzy Malone (rapper and regular Ritchie contributor) and Aubrey Plaza (the only truly new flavor in Ritchie’s crockpot of leftover ideas).

Plaza contributes that uncomfortable comedy she does so well, although it sometimes feels like she’s actually performing in a different film that has somehow broken into Ritchie’s movie. Still, she’s at least a lively and amusing distraction, although I can’t say she has real chemistry with anyone onscreen besides Grant.

Grant’s a hoot no matter whose scenes he is stealing, and Josh Hartnett surprises in a comedic role that would be more fun if it didn’t feel borrowed directly from (the entirely superior) The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent.

There are a few laugh-out-loud moments, and some scenes that push the film toward parody, although Ritchie and crew cannot land on a tone. Everything feels more like a brainstorming session than a finished film. Nobody gels, nothing hangs together. The action is just this side of exciting, the humor lands about 40% of the time, and one scene pulls directly from Team America: World Police.

Mainly Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre just made me wish I was watching Team America.

Bro Down

Black Christmas

by Hope Madden

In the history of cinema, the number of bad, misogynistic horror movies is too high to count. I literally cannot count that high. So, even though Black Christmas is not a good horror movie, it’s somehow comforting to know there is now at least one bad feminist horror flick.

Co-writer/director Sophia Takal (writing alongside April Wolfe) puts a new spin on Bob Clark’s seasonal classic. (Well, Clark also directed A Christmas Story, but I’m talking about his 1974 original Black Christmas.)

Christmas break is upon the Hawthorn College campus and students are slowly trickling home. Any sorority sisters left at school will wish they’d made other plans.

Clark’s bloodier yuletide gem remains relevant because it’s a pre-slasher slasher, meaning that it doesn’t entirely follow the formula because there was no formula for slashers in 1974. Many consider Black Christmas to be the first of that sub-genre, so it subverts expectations because, when it was made, there were none. Fun!

The second reason people return to it annually is the creepy ass phone calls that still somehow manage to be chilling.

Takal definitely frustrates with phones, although not to nearly the same chilling effect. But she does manage to give the formula a switch-up.

Imogen Poots leads the cast as Riley, and we know Riley is the film’s hero because she has the most to overcome. Poots is a reliable performer, though she struggles to give Riley much character. Still, you see flashes of her talent, especially in an infuriating conversation with campus police.

Aleyse Shannon leaves a more interesting impression as activist/bestie Kris, and Cary Elwes makes a welcome, oily visit as the professor you really, really hate.

Unlike the ’74 original or the unwatchable 2006 reboot, Takal’s Black Christmas is PG13, so don’t expect any real scares or envelope-pushing violence. Where Takal takes chances is with the message that rape culture has to be burned to the ground.

The film is a blunt instrument, but there are moments in the dialog that are both cathartic and funny. Female characters are treated with sincere scrutiny and empathy (except in the film’s prologue, which is just disappointing).

And yet, the leap in logic between “let’s go to the cops” and “here’s my supernatural theory” is so grand, so bold, so ludicrous that you almost have to admire it. It absolutely sinks the movie, but there’s something applause worthy in the wrong-headedness of it.

The plot ends up killing Black Christmas, which is too bad. Takal threads some audacious take downs of bro culture throughout a film with a lot of insight. It’s just not a very good movie.