Director: Guy Ritchie Screenwriter: Paul Tamasy, Eric Johnson, Arash Amel, Guy Ritchie Cast: Henry Cavill, Eiza González, Alan Ritchson, Alex Pettyfer, Hero Fiennes Tiffin, Babs Olusanmokun, Henry Golding, Cary Elwes Distributor: Lionsgate Running Time: 120 min. MPAA: R

There’s an almost comforting nature to how Guy Ritchie briskly trots this WWII picture promising Nazi hunting. Though based on real people and events, Ritchie’s film adaptation of Damien Lewis’s book has more in common with Inglorious Basterds than something like Hacksaw Ridge. In the same way that Basterds makes its characters known for quirks of bashing Nazi skulls with baseball bats, The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare reduces figures like Gus March-Phillipps down to a dude who likes to swipe whatever he can amid combat. This simpler framing makes it a little easier to appreciate the absurdity of the adventure, devoid of melodramatic fat, as it races to the next deception, sabotage, and brutal kill.

Set in 1940, British forces assembled a secretive task force to sabotage Nazi naval operations, with the target being the Italian supply ship Duchessa d’Aosta a. The team is headed by Gus (Henry Cavill), who pilfers the most expensive whisky and smokes the finest cigars while getting briefed. His crew comprises similar quirky fellows, defined almost entirely by their eccentricities. Marjorie Stewart (Eiza González) is a classic femme fatale who shoots and seduces with dead aim, working alongside power-playing spy Frederich Heron (Babs Olusanmokun). Anders Lassen (Alan Ritchson) is a big, loveable lug with a hobby of cutting out Nazi hearts. Freddy Alvarez (Henry Golding) enjoys blowing stuff up and has a knack for delaying with just enough anticipation. Geoffrey Appleyard (Alex Pettyfer) is an expert at sabotage (when his nipples are not being electrocuted by the Nazis who capture him). They also join forces while trying to stay one step ahead of Nazi forces led by the vicious Heinrich Luhr (Til Schweiger) and keeping up with the info of Brigadier Gubbins ‘M’ (Cary Elwes).

There’s not much more to the plot beyond that staging. There are some twists along the way where the heist shifts gear as it complicates, and there are some supporting players in the form of aiding local royalty and less cooperative forces working with the Nazis. Outside of that, this is a film that mostly delivers on the eccentric thrills of watching a badass dirty half-dozen mow down Nazis like a walk in the park. Cavill gets to saunter through Nazi camps with a machine gun, laughing along the way as he swipes one of their coats. Ritchson gets to show off those beefy muscles as he disposes of Nazis with arrows and axes, getting in a cute smile in between his brutality. There’s also a heaping helping of gunfire and explosions injected into the film, as though Ritchie is working on a quota.

This is a film about speed and style, which is great considering that it could be a snooze if it didn’t commit to absurd intensity. Ritchie takes his liberties with this material, practically launching it into comic book territory with how uproarious the violence becomes and how sly the writing comes off. A fun fact is established in the textual epilogue: Ian Fleming took inspiration from this spy operation to craft James Bond. Perhaps that is the vibe that Ritchie was going for with this film, depicting Operation Postmaster more through the fantastical lens of the wit, grit, and horniness of the James Bond franchise. One has to imagine that must be the case, considering the intercutting between Cavill and crew brutally murdering waves of Nazis while González serenades/distracts the soldiers in a sexy dress while singing Mack The Knife.

The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare is a Nazi-killing spy adventure that’s heavy on the Nazi killing and light on historical accuracy. That said, for more or less delivers what it promises, it speeds along with enough charm to be an amusing romp through heightening history with winking whimsy. It’s the junk food of historical action pictures, but it’s so damn satisfying that I didn’t mind the empty calories of lesser-defined characters smeared with a movie con-job glaze. Sometimes you just want to see some rough and tough dudes slaughter the fuck out of some Nazis, and this film manages to scratch that very specific itch.

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