Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre... daft but fun Guy Ritchie spy caper – with Ukrainian baddies

You can’t move for Hugh Grant playing syrupy sleazeballs at the moment. He’s on point as a traitorous smoothie in Dungeons & Dragons, but he’s even better as a perma-tanned billionaire arms dealer with a Michael Caine accent in Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre. That title is a needless mouthful for this Guy Ritchie/Jason Statham spy caper, which leers, winks and crudely entertains. It also collapses, but no one’s taking themselves too seriously here – so why should we?

Statham is one Orson Fortune, a superspy who wants to be on holiday, but keeps being dragged into vital black-ops by his handler Nathan (a nicely harassed Cary Elwes). It’s tempting to wonder if the same dynamic comes into play whenever the Stath picks up the blower and it’s Guy Ritchie on the line. On this occasion, some deadly bit of weaponry (“The Handle”) has been stolen from a British tech facility, and Fortune is plonked at the head of a recovery team. Unfortunately for them, it isn’t the only one: rival heavies get Taser-happy and gazump each other, as if we were playing Squid Game with nukes at stake.

With a shoes-clicking-on-marble start that’s pure Burn After Reading, and some saucy surveillance games that reminded me of Sneakers, Ritchie plans his menu with familiar ingredients. One of them is Aubrey Plaza, along for the ride as a taunting junior agent who spars with the big boys and doesn’t squirm – you could describe the entire tenor of her role as playfully sexist.

To get close to Grant’s Greg Simmonds, whose hands the weapon is bound to pass through, they must infiltrate his fundraiser on a yacht in Cannes. Their ticket in, through blackmail, is playboy movie star Danny Francesco (Josh Hartnett), on whom Simmonds has a close-to-homoerotic fixation. Ritchie’s gay jokes are quaint, by now, and some are quite funny. But the idea of Hartnett on a billboard for a period epic called Barbary Coast? Pure 1935 kitsch. Ritchie, who co-wrote the script, gives the weird impression of never having met a US film star, or certainly not knowing the smooth route of casting one as themselves, this century.

Grant, though, really pushes the boat out. At least until a bizarrely shambolic last act – and a punchline thrown away as a near-inaudible line of Elwes dialogue – he keeps waking the film up from its slumps. He can gaze for just a beat too long at Plaza with a reptilian, Robert Evans grin, and it’s icky magic. Ritchie surely wishes he hadn’t thrown trigger-happy Ukrainian gangsters into the mix – the reason this film didn’t come out last January, when it was originally meant to. Further Ruses now seem off the cards. But it’s daft, disposable fun while it lasts.

15 cert, 114 min. In cinemas now