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Operation: Endgame DVD Review

Operation: Endgame DVD cover art - click to buy DVD from Amazon.com Operation: Endgame

Running Time: 82 Minutes / Rating: R / Video Debut: July 27, 2010

Director: Fouad Mikati / Writers: Sam Levinson; Brian Watanabe (original screenplay)

Cast: Joe Anderson (Fool), Rob Corddry (Chariot), Ellen Barkin (Empress), Odette Yustman (Temperance), Maggie Q (High Priestess), Zach Galifianakis (Hermit), Adam Scott (Magician), Brandon T. Jackson (Tower), Emilie de Ravin (Hierophant), Beth Grant (Susan Smith), Bob Odenkirk (Emperor), Michael Hitchcock (Neil), Tim Bagley (Carl), Ving Rhames (Judgement), Jeffrey Tambor (Devil)

2.40:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, Spanish; Not Closed Captioned; Extras Not Subtitled
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (DVD-9) / Black Eco-Friendly Keepcase in Cardboard Slipcover
Suggested Retail Price: $29.97; Also available on Blu-ray Disc ($34.98 SRP)

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The two most prominent actors on the cover of Operation: Endgame are Rob Corddry and Zach Galifianakis, whose stars are rising due to their comedy chops. With each shown carrying and firing a gun in a design reminiscent of Shoot 'Em Up and Smokin' Aces, you suspect that either the casting or the marketing is off here. Neither is, though, because Operation: Endgame aspires to the tone of Wanted, where action abounds but you're meant to laugh regularly. At the same time, both aspects are amiss. The casting falters because despite the presence of formidable comedic forces, the movie is very rarely funny. And the cover art errs because Galifianakis is barely seen in the film and, more importantly,
the three aflame firearms and four additional ones held all betray the film's fundamental premise of atypical weaponry and combat.

Endgame is set on January 20, 2009, the optimistic inauguration day of President Barack Obama. It's also the first day on the job for Eric Allen Gaines (Joe Anderson), a man joining the ranks of a top-secret U.S. government defense agency designed to smooth over global affairs. It's looking like it could also be the final day of said government agency, when a bomb threatens to wipe it out.

Our protagonist is the new addition to the Omega team, established alongside opposing team Alpha by Lyndon B. Johnson. Every agent on both sides adopts the name of a tarot card; Eric becomes the Fool. The man who oversees the entire division (Jeffrey Tambor), called The Devil in spite of his mild manners, is killed before the morning meeting can adjourn. To make matters worse, someone has initiated Project Endgame (despite the film's title, that is the protocol's name), an exit sequence that will trigger an explosion to wipe out the unit's eleven locked-in employees.

Alpha and Omega agents (including Rob Corddry, Odette Yustman, Ving Rhames, Adam Scott, Bob Odenkirk, and Joe Anderson) try to make sense of their boss' murder and the Project Endgame that threatens to wipe them all out.

Alpha agents pair up with their Omega equivalents, splitting up to somehow solve the internal murder mystery and stop the deadly explosion scheduled for two hours from now. There is little detective work, though. Instead, harboring mutual suspicions, the partnered agents try to off one another. Battles aren't quite bang-you're-dead, however, because in a plot point established early on, agents are required to surrender all weapons while at work. With nary a gun in sight, the employees make use of their surroundings, turning a paper shredder, a water cooler, and the like as means to a co-worker's demise.

While the cast thins as in a slasher film, a couple of video security men (Tim Bagley, Michael Hitchcock) function like a Greek chorus, somehow catching every moment of action, keeping score of the casualties, and providing commentary.

Among the workers waging this ultra-violent war are: Chariot (Rob Corddry, pushing his cranky jerk shtick to its limits) who takes regular swigs from a glass revolver flask, bitchy menopausal veteran Empress (Ellen Barkin), Fool's ex-girlfriend Temperance (Odette Yustman), straight-laced republican Tower (Brandon T. Jackson in false nose), Southern Christian Heirophant (Emilie de Ravin), and dramatic pun-making Judgement (Ving Rhames). We get just fleeting glimpses of Hermit (Galifianakis), a cipher ominously wandering around in a white jumpsuit, whose one focal scene allows the actor to unleash his signature screaming act.

Security guards Carl (Tim Bagley) and Neil (Michael Hitchcock) manage to catch President Obama's inauguration speech and every bit of intrigue that goes on in The Factory's locked-down offices, while voicing reactions for viewers. The Fool's ex, Temperance (Odette Yustman), wields the blade of a paper cutter, one of the office objects rendered deadly in the lockdown.

So short on wit and taste, it's a mystery how Operation: Endgame got made, let alone with the reputable ensemble assembled here. Its political backdrop (surfacing in intermittent licensed Inauguration Day footage of Obama and his much-maligned predecessor), clearly pieced together after principal photography (which IMDb reports as occurring July to September 2008), is far less clever and inspiring than it would have been even one year ago. Its concept of competitive work colleagues turning lethal on one another in unusual ways might have supplied a touch of promise.
But it's lost in execution, which seems to be able to go no more than three lines without dropping the F-word. It is less the vulgarity than the bitterness that bothers. None of these characters is meant to be pleasant, which is an intentional design. Why then should we care who kills who and what rationale (if any) motivates them?

Operation: Endgame, whose working title was Rogues Gallery, marks the very first filmmaking credit for Parisian director Fouad Mikati and uncollaborative screenwriters Sam Levinson and Brian Watanabe. That fact makes the movie's shortcomings more understandable and the cast's involvement more perplexing (even if the 2008 production narrowly preceded some of their success). A slightly more experienced scribe, Abe Levy, referenced in past reports and on the official production company website, receives no credit on the final film. Unsurprisingly, the film attracted no bites at last fall's American Film Market trade event. This past February, though, Anchor Bay Films acquired the film. They will premiere it directly on DVD and Blu-ray on July 27.

Endgame is the fifth film produced by Donnie Darko director Richard Kelly's uncelebrated Darko Entertainment label.

VIDEO and AUDIO

There are no complaints to aim at the DVD's 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen picture and Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. The former remains pleasantly clean as it presents the film's slightly muted color palette without issue. The soundtrack delivers occasional ambience effectively, without ever making a huge impression.

Veteran actress Ellen Barkin takes direction from first-timer Fouad Mikati in "Behind the Scenes of 'Operation: Endgame.'" Beth Grant's human relations employee Susan Smith would have kicked off the film in this alternate opening's uncomfortable job interview. Zach Galifianakis' enigmatic, diabetic hall-strolling Hermit makes an appearance on the DVD's main menu montage.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS and PACKAGING

Three extras are included here.

"Behind the Scenes of Operation: Endgame" (10:25) serves up film clips and B-roll footage.
The latter provides some of the "how" (of make-up and fight staging), but none of the more pressing "why."

An alternate opening (2:56) shows us the Fool's nervous job interview by Susan Smith (Beth Grant). For some reason, Joe Anderson sounds like he's doing a bad Christopher Walken impression. Ending with the film's actual start, the clip includes the original title Rogues Gallery. An alternate ending (0:28) simply stops short of the final cut to conclude with Obama speech.

The disc opens with trailers for The Stranger (Steve Austin's, not Orson Welles'), ski lift horror film Frozen, the upcoming I Spit on Your Grave remake, Brooklyn's Finest, and UFC DVDs.

The main menu plays a montage reflecting the film's visual variety. Submenus are static and silent.

There's nothing boring about the first day on the job for Eric Allen Gaines (Joe Anderson), code name: The Fool, who here finds himself between a flaming golf club and an office water cooler.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Operation: Endgame isn't as generic as its title suggests, but it is as stupid as you might fear. This violent action-comedy is so bad it makes Wanted look good. Though the DVD's presentation is fine, the film itself isn't worth your time, no matter how entertaining the cast may be in other places.

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The Cast of Operation: Endgame:
Joe Anderson: The Crazies The Ruins Across the Universe | Odette Yustman: Cloverfield October Road: The Complete First Season
Rob Corddry: The Heartbreak Kid Blades of Glory Semi-Pro | Zach Galifianakis: Youth in Revolt G-Force Into the Wild
Ellen Barkin: Ocean's Thirteen | Emilie De Ravin: Lost: The Complete First Season | Maggie Q: Balls of Fury New York, I Love You
Brandon T. Jackson: Tropic Thunder | Adam Scott: Step Brothers Boy Meets World: The Complete Third Season
Ving Rhames: Surrogates Con Air | Bob Odenkirk: Breaking Bad: The Complete Second Season | Jeffrey Tambor: Hellboy II: The Golden Army

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Reviewed July 13, 2010.



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