Saturday, April 23, 2011

Operation: Endgame

When I saw the cast for Operation: Endgame, I wondered how I could have not heard a peep about this movie.  Seriously, it has Rob Corddry, Ellen Barkin, Zach Galifianakis, Ving Rhames, Maggie Q, Adam Scott, Joe Anderson (from last year's awesome The Crazies), Odette Yustman (from the awful The Unborn), Brandon T. Jackson (from Tropic Thunder), Emilie de Ravin ( magazine, maybe?), Tim Bagley, Michael Hitchcock, Bob Odenkirk, and Jeffrey Tambor.  Admittedly, the cast isn't exactly full of Oscar winners, but I recognized every single billed actor.  Somehow, the familiarity of the stars didn't gather enough interest to get this theatrically released, so straight-to-DVD it went.

The premise here is pretty simple ridiculously convoluted.  There is a government agency that is in charge of super-secret black ops, but the agency was so dangerous (um...JFK, anybody?) that they needed to be kept in check.  However, they also needed to remain clandestine and shadowy.  So, the agency was split into two forces, Alpha and Omega, and they spend most of their time out-super-spying the other team, essentially canceling each other out.  Every member of Alpha and Omega is a deadly assassin, but each has their own particular skill set.  Each member also hands over any weapons as they enter the office every day and they are only referred to by their Tarot card-related code-names.  And yes, these super-secret assassins all work out of the same cubicle-filled office.  The movie begins with Fool (Joe Anderson) coming in for his first day of work, and we experience all the weirdness with him.  It's not all fun and murder, though; the boss for the two teams, The Devil (Jeffrey Tambor), gets himself killed and a fail-safe self-destruction program is set off.  Alpha and Omega have about an hour and twenty minutes (or, the run time for the movie) to either escape the escape-proof office, or disable the bomb.  You would think that would lead to cooperation between the two groups, but instead, it leads to lots and lots of killing with non-traditional weapons.
Improbably sharp paper cutter, meet shockingly dead-eyed actress.

I'm not going to focus much on the acting in this movie, because there isn't really a whole lot of it.  The dialogue is surprisingly funny for a direct-to-DVD release, but other than that, everybody is in this movie until they get killed.  I am surprised that I actually enjoyed Rob Corddry in this movie; it's pretty much the same bit he always does, but a little less desperate and more vulgar this time.  Ellen Barkin was also surprisingly funny and shockingly good looking for a woman her age.  There were no other surprises in the mix, as far as the actors go.

The dialogue is the star of this movie.  Every character is impressively witty and most are creative with their cussing and sexual references.  Corddry and Barkin clearly had a great time saying so many awful things, but they had the lion's share of the good lines.  Many of the actors spoke three or four lines total before getting killed, so it was hard to actually like any of the characters.  That's kind of the point, though; these people are so evil that they supposedly have to kill a puppy to join the agency.  Even the less evil characters, like the guys observing all the action on closed-circuit video feeds (Tim Bagley and Michael Hitchcock), are hard to like; in their case, it's because they're just there as reactionary characters that say "Ooh, gross!" when someone gets killed.  Since every character is a deadly assassin, there are no innocents in this movie.  Since there are no innocents in the movie, it's a lot harder to pinpoint who to like.  In the end, you end up rooting for whoever you think is the funniest, and then they probably get killed.

There is a huge body count in this movie.  It's not just the less famous actors who die, either.  Every character is willing and able to kill any other character, so you might find yourself surprised at who dies when.  Unfortunately, you probably won't be surprised by the ones who die last.  This is a movie that wants to feel unpredictable, but once the movie is halfway through, you should have a pretty good idea on how it's going to end.  That's not necessarily a bad thing (in broad strokes, anyway), but it is if the movie is putting a lot of effort into being clever.

The movie's not bad, but it's nowhere near as awesome as its script thinks it is.  I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the first half of the movie, but it started getting formulaic and was pretty dull toward the end.  This movie worked a lot better with (most of) the characters alive than it did with them dead.  I like dick jokes as much as the next guy, but many of the characters used distinctly different types of sarcasm; the main ones left standing toward the end were basically telling the same jokes coming from different mouths.
Yeah, that's how I felt when the movie ended, too.

This was director Fuoad Mikati's first movie, and it's not a ad first effort.  He lets the actors do their thing --- I'm guessing that he didn't handle them much, since they all act about as well as ever --- and he keeps the pace moving.  Personally, I would have significantly cut down on Bagley and Hitchcock's screen time, but the movie wasn't even an hour and a half long, so it's not like they broke up the flow of the movie.  they were just annoying.  The special effects indicate that this was a pretty low-budget for what is essentially a funny action movie, so I think Mikati did a decent job with what he had to work with.

Having said that, I ended up not enjoying this movie.  It had potential and there were a decent amount of funny one-liners, but that's about all it had.  It misused most of the cast, killing several characters off early for shock value and not getting anything more than that.  The story throws a couple of twists in, but the plot is so convoluted and stupid that you never care why things are happening, as long as Corddry gets to insult Barkin's vagina again.  He does.  And she gives a rebuttal.  But that's only kind of funny.  The action takes up a lot of the film, but it's not all that amazing, probably because it is performed mainly by comedians.  Ugh, and Bagley and Hitchcock end up spending waaaaay too much time commenting on the fights they are watching; in an action movie, do you want to react to an awesome kill, or do you want some other, Rob Schneider-like character do it for you?  I would have called this a perfectly mediocre movie, but I really hated those two guys.

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