And so we conclude the thrilling story of Operation Fortune: Ruse De Guerre, Guy Ritchie’s return to stylish spy capers with reliable main man, Jason Statham in tow. A sharp, witty and colourful actioner about a top secret agent trying to foil a billion dollar weapons sale between an arms dealer and a set of dastardly Ukrainian Mercenaries. Which would have released last year had Russia not invaded the Ukraine and the country’s population subsequently revealed themselves to be proud defenders of their homeland, holding the line against a vastly better equipped foe. Suddenly casting them as the villains in anything would feel grossly distasteful as well as at-odds with the reality of their national character. So Operation Fortune got shelved for a year, then quietly shunted onto Amazon Prime today.

Finally watching the film is a bizarre experience, the Ukrainian villains, like everything in the film, is so underdeveloped it could have been ignored completely. Replace a handful of lines in ADR and they could have been any generic Eastern European country. The film is concerned with so many other plotlines it flits between them like it has ADHD. Which may be down to the film have been hacked apart in the edit, but that excuse hardly helps the viewing experience.

Jason Statham is an expert field operative in a British Intelligence organisation with Archer-levels of ambiguity, where quasi-independent freelance spies compete for contracts worldwide. Indeed, Orson Fortune seems to be borrowing a lot from Sterling Archer, but for comedy purposes the writers seemed to land on expenses fraud as his most hilarious trait. Aubrey Plaza is recruited in to actually land some of the jokes as the chaotic tech support, Bugzy Malone (returning from The Gentlemen) is a secondary agent and such a non-entity you wonder why they included him at all, and Cary Elwes lends some charm as Fortune’s put-upon handler. Together they decide to recruit Hollywood actor Danny Francesco (Josh Hartnett) to help them reach notorious arms dealer Greg Simmonds (Hugh Grant) who among other things is a massive fan of Danny’s.

So yes, it’s the plot from Team America: World Police but played completely straight and with significantly less-amusing results. Danny ends up charming Simmonds so well that he’s forced to spend the weekend at his Turkish villa, with Plaza along for the ride posing as Danny’s girlfriend. But while this should have been the bulk of the film, hapless idiot forced to play spy with enthusiastic but inexperienced sidekick, it comes into play almost an hour into the runtime. With much of the preceding time padded with tedious setup utilising some of the most generic espionage tropes. Along with a subplot featuring a rival team of spies constantly undermining the main players. Without any sort of characterisation to make the rivalry funny.

I suspect that a lot of the film ended up on the cutting room floor because structurally, it’s a mess. Not only in the plotting, in which multiple storylines are competing for screen time, but also in the editing. Characters seemingly teleport from one spot to the next, one of Plaza’s best jokes (given prominence in the trailers) is cut off mid-dialogue line, at one point multiple men are thrown off a public balcony and the extras just breeze past it like it’s just another part of the Turkish tourist experience.

It’s not without merit but there’s a significant feeling that Operation Fortune: Ruse De Guerre isn’t using its resources to their full potential. Whatever you think of Statham, his presence as an action hero is undeniable, and while he brings his signature intensity his action scenes are limited to a handful of tussles, often against single combatants. Plaza is comedy gold of course, able to deliver exposition or fumble her way through spy scenarios with utter absurdity. There’s a sense though that she’s being held back from her maximum level of lunacy though, even her one action scene has her falling back onto a stoic, action girl persona. Only Hartnett and Grant seem to be living up to their true potential as they form a dramatic bromance that carries much of the final act. Grant in particular seems always willing to give it his all provided he gets to parody some member of British society. In this case his Alan Sugar impersonation is equal parts villainous and pathetic.

It’s fair to say that Guy Ritchie is a director with a mixed track record, having never really recaptured, the stylish, blackly comic vibe of Lock, Stock… and Snatch. Operation Fortune: Ruse De Guerre seems to have instead been made to recapture the magic of The Man From UNCLE which inexplicably garnered him critical praise. However, it’s scope and ambition seem far too hampered by budgets, a lack of imagination and the small matter of a European land war, to produce the kind of high-octane, spy comedy it aims to be.