Sex is currency…death has no price
Endgame. An adaptation of the famous one act play by Samuel Beckett? I wish. Nope, it's "a film by Gary Wick." The fact that descriptive phrase appears on the front cover of the DVD packaging, and that Endgame is Wick's one and only feature film, should give you a decent idea of the level of pretension with which we're faced.
Wick's film is an arthouse British thriller concerning the hardships of a London rent boy named Tom (Daniel Newman, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves). Tom's brutal pimp, Frank (Mark McGann, Shackleton), has the bad habit of videotaping Tom's rendezvous with corrupt cops who have a taste for fit young boys, then using the tapes as blackmail. One such detective is Dunston (John Benfield, Prime Suspect). The sluggish film kicks briefly into high gear when Tom bludgeons Frank to death as the older man tries to get a little frisky, then absconds with his neighbors—an American couple—carrying, for reasons unexplained, the videotape of himself and Dunston getting their groove on. Dunston pursues, of course, in order to recover the tape by any means necessary. In the meantime, Tom does some soul searching; learns about the possibilities of carnal bliss with sexually frustrated American women; and is finally able to recover a pesky, trauma-induced repressed memory involving the reason his mother was shipped off to jail, leaving him to a life of gay prostitution in London's mean streets.
Now, does that sound pretentious or what? Let me assure you, words don't do justice. Among its many failings, Endgame is the sort of bloated arthouse flick whose first 30 minutes are basically unnecessary. Sure, they give a decent view of the gritty London streets and a peek at the ups-and-downs of life as a rent boy, but it's all trite nonsense. Thrillers are supposed to be as lean and taut as our frequently shirtless hero, but Endgame sprawls, meandering so erratically through its 113 minutes one forgets at long stretches that it's a thriller at all and starts to believe it's a soporific character study lacking real characters. When Tom and the American couple make it out to the cabin in the country, it's like watching a slightly seedy version of that masterpiece of cornball, On Golden Pond. In the rare moments Wick remembers he's making a thriller, he merely tosses in a bevy of hyper-stylized, slow motion music video moments in a piss-poor aping of Guy Ritchie (the co-opting of Ritchie's style by nearly every maker of British thrillers is, more than anything else, killing the genre).
Worse yet, the DVD packaging proudly proclaims the film was an official selection at the Philadelphia Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, but I can't figure out why it was selected since it treats homosexuality as a pathology. It frames gay sex entirely in the parlance of dominance and submission, but to say it has a sado-masochistic bent would be inaccurate. Masochists, after all, enjoy being dominated. Tom is just flat-out brutalized by Frank and Dunston—pleasure plays no part in the exchanges. Moreover, Tom's homosexuality is ultimately the result of his having been raped by his own father and traumatized by his mother's response to discovering the incest. Wick's coup de grace is when Tom has the only meaningful sex of his life with the American woman, then goes on and on about how it was the real thing. Maybe I'm just a dumb heterosexual, but it all seemed a bit anti-gay to me, exactly the sort of thing a gay and lesbian film festival would avoid celebrating.
If Endgame the movie sucks (and it does), then Endgame the DVD is just as bad. Though the film was originally shot in a widescreen format of 2.35:1, the transfer here is full screen, pan-and-scan. It's entirely possible Wick and cinematographer Dave Bennett (Human Traffic) shot a beautiful film, but I wouldn't know. The lighting looks creative and stylish, but compositions are completely shot and grain is excessive because of the 1.33:1 presentation. In addition, black levels are sometimes over-saturated, leaving the image muddy and limp. Audio is as bad as the video, the stereo track pinched and confined. Dynamic range is far too narrow for a film that's only two years old, ambient space is weakly defined, and everything sounds flat. While dialogue is mostly clear, the track's midrange is completely lacking.
Even if Endgame were a good film, I wouldn't recommend this DVD. Luckily, there's no dilemma because, even if the DVD were stellar, I wouldn't recommend the film.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: TLA Releasing
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