Operation Fortune movie delay ukraine politics
© AlamyThe spy action thriller, Operation Fortune, which was filmed in 2020, was set to come out this spring but disappeared from schedules
Guy Ritchie's new £125 million film Operation Fortune — with a cast headed by British stars Hugh Grant and Jason Statham — was pulled from release because it featured a group of Ukrainian gangsters.

The spy action thriller, which was filmed in 2020, was set to come out this spring but disappeared from schedules. I'm told that the nationality of the gangsters has now been edited out.

A trailer, which can still be seen on YouTube, shows Statham, as spy-for-hire Orson Fortune, realising that a deadly weapon has been bought by a Ukrainian crime syndicate.

'The Ukrainians?' he says. 'I can get inside the Ukrainians.'

His sidekick, played by actress Aubrey Plaza, quips: 'I hope you take them to dinner first . . .'

Sources close to the film say that out of sensitivity to the ongoing war it was decided that they needed to lose the 'detail' of the nationality of the gang.

They point out that the caper was always intended to be fictional entertainment, and not a political statement; and that the project was simply overtaken by events. One added: 'To be clear, there are many bad guys in the film . . . the antagonists come from all over the world. But out of sensitivity to the ongoing war in Ukraine it was decided some of these should no longer be identified as Ukrainian.'

The picture will now get a global cinematic release at some point later in the year.

Ritchie's film was certainly the victim of bad timing. A publicity campaign was ready and waiting to be launched; trailers were released; and posters printed in December last year.

However as Russian troops started to mass on the border with Ukraine, the original release date (in January 2022) was pushed back to March. And on February 24, when Putin's tanks rolled into Ukraine, that later date was also pulled, without explanation, by distributors STX.

The plot of the film, which has the full title Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre, concerns billionaire arms broker Greg Simmonds. He is played by Hugh Grant, very much against type, as a perma-tanned, cigar-chomping Cockney geezer. Jason Statham is our hero, Orson Fortune, who is trying to stop Simmonds from selling a secret weapon.

The comedy mostly arises from Fortune's brainwave to try to get to Simmonds by introducing him to his movie star idol Danny Francesco, played by Josh Hartnett. Eddie Marsan and Cary Elwes also appear.

Since filming Operation Fortune, Ritchie has directed Jake Gyllenhaal in The Interpreter, about efforts to extract a military interpreter from Afghanistan. He is also working on a TV version of his 2019 movie, The Gentlemen, about a marijuana kingpin.