Judge Patrick Bromley a sought-after master in the art of the End-Around.
Our review of Operation: Endgame, published July 22nd, 2010, is also available.
Two rival teams of assassins. One killer day at the office.
It's so sad to feel your high hopes for a movie be sucked away before your very eyes. Though a disappointment on nearly every level, the 2010 black comedy/actioner Operation: Endgame doesn't fail as an example of this phenomenon. It takes an incredible cast and a reasonably engaging premise (I say this mostly as someone who likes Smokin' Aces) and undercooks the elements into something that's not quite funny or thrilling or, at best, even interesting.
The film takes place on the day of Barack Obama's inauguration—a conceit that has a clever kernel at its center (with the Bush regime moving out of the White House, there's no longer a need for an entire department of fascist killers) but which never really gels. There's a lot of that going on in Operation: Endgame. At any rate, a new recruit called The Fool (Joe Anderson, High Life), is brought in to work at a top secret black ops agency called The Factory, which is split into two halves, Alpha and Omega, meant to balance one another out (every character is also named after a Tarot card, in case you were thinking the screenplay wasn't contrived enough). The assassins working at the Factory include Magician (Ellen Barkin, Johnny Handsome) and Judgment (Ving Rhames, The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard), High Priestess (Maggie Q, Live Free or Die Hard) and Magician (Adam Scott, The Vicious Kind), Temperance (Odette Yustman, Cloverfield) and Chariot (Rob Corddry, Hot Tub Time Machine), Heirophant (Emilie de Ravin, Remember Me) and Hermit (Zach Galifianakis, The Hangover). When the head of the Factory, the Devil (Jeffrey Tambor, EuroTrip), is murdered, both teams realize they've got 90 minutes to find their way out of the now-sealed Factory before the whole thing goes up in flames.
With that cast, how could I not at least be hopeful about the potential of Operation: Endgame? I was even curious to see many of them stretch and play killers and assassins, if only because it's not often you get to see guys like Corddry, Galifianakis and Bob Odenkirk (of the great Mr. Show with Bob and David) run around and shoot guns. Unfortunately, that's all the movie can see fit to have them do. With minimal setup, the cast is broken up into pairs (one Alpha, one Omega) and everyone begins fighting and killing one another. Once you've figured out that formula, there's nothing to care about at all; you're just checking names off a list as people you've barely gotten to know murder each other in increasingly graphic ways. It's too bad, then, that first-time director Fouad Mikati isn't able to stage any of the action in a way that's engaging or visceral (the movie's low budget and borderline-terrible digital effects don't help matters any). Plus, none of the actors (save perhaps for Ellen Barkin and Rob Corddry) is able to bring to their roles any of the things you want to see them do. That the movie is produced by director Richard Kelly should come as no surprise, as he's known for overstuffed movies that attempt to incorporate dark comedy and political themes but seldom do so successfully. I say that, of course, as something of a Richard Kelly apologist and someone who's liked all of his movies, including Southland Tales—if you're going to fail, at least do so with something hugely ambitious and out of your grasp. There's a little of that in Operation: Endgame. Just not enough.
Anchor Bay's Blu-ray of Operation: Endgame is fine but nothing special. The 2.40:1, 1080p transfer is, for the most part, solid; detail is decent throughout and the film's washed-out, drab color palette is well-represented. Some softness creeps in from time to time, as do some contrast issues, but nothing is so severe that it would ruin anyone's enjoyment of the movie (besides, the movie itself does a good enough job of that). The lossless PCM audio track carries a lot of kick, offering the obscenity-laden dialogue clearly and calling down the thunder for the endless gunfire and action. A standard 5.1 Dolby track is also available, but I didn't listen to it for the purposes of this review.
Supplemental material on the disc is pretty nonexistent. There's a short "behind the scenes" featurette comprised of raw footage with the cast rehearsing and goofing around, and it actually gives a better idea of some of their strengths (like Corddry, for example) than anything in the movie. Also included is an alternate opening and ending to the movie, both of which are pretty similar to what ended up being used in the finished film.
One more thing. That title. It's terrible, and it reeks of a studio slapping a generic name on a direct-to-DVD movie in the hopes that it will trick some people into renting it when everything else is gone on a Saturday night. Seriously—Operation: Endgame is one of the worst titles for a movie I've heard since Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever, and they don't get much worse than that.
Well, about four seconds of research tells me that I'm correct, and that the title was originally Rogue's Gallery (it even appears as such in the disc's alternate opening). It's marginally better than Operation: Endgame, I guess, but still suggests a movie without much on its mind or a distinct point of view. In that respect, I guess it's just about right.
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