I watch a lot of straight-to-DVD flicks, some good, most bad, but almost all of them straight-to-DVD for a reason. And then there’s the case of Operation: Endgame - a high-concept, ultra-violent action comedy with a cast most directors would kill for. What could have possibly gone so wrong with a flick boasting a roster of talent that includes current comedy “it” boys, Rob Corddry (Hot Tub Time Machine), Adam Scott (Stepbrothers) and Zach Galifianakis (The Hangover), up-and-comers Maggie Q , Joe Anderson (The Ruins/The Crazies), and Odette Yustman (Cloverfield),as well as established veterans like Ellen Barkin, Ving Rhames, and Jeffrey Tambor?
Well, quite a bit, actually, but there’s still enough good here to recommend it.
Welcome to The Factory, an elite espionage cell consisting of two competing teams of assassins; Alpha and Omega, each member of which is named after a card in the Tarot. The two teams coexist in a bunker deep in the bowels of Washington D.C., where they’re overseen by “The Devil” (Jeffrey Tambor), a deceptively inept and thoroughly paranoid supervisor barely able to keep the peace between his two bickering factions of sociopaths. During the presidential inauguration of Barack Obama, The Devil is murdered, and the facility is locked down, setting into motion the Endgame protocol, in which the complex will be vaporized, thus wiping out all evidence of its existence.
Now, trapped together and with no pesky Devil to intervene, the members of Alpha and Omega have at one another, with Alpha leader, Empress (Barkin), drawing first blood by taking out Omega’s Emperor (Bob Odenkirk). While the veteran agents are busy trying to kill each other off in gruesome fashion, newly recruited Fool (Anderson) and his former flame, Temperance (Yustman), try to find a way out of the complex before time runs out.
Operation: Endgame isn’t quite the star-studded affair it’s box art would have you believe, as many of the actors turn in little more than glorified cameos, leaving the lion’s share of the work to Anderson and Yustman. That’s not to say that the two young actors aren’t appealing and engaging in their roles, but it would have been nice to see a bit more of Galifianakis, Rhames, Tambor, etc (especially Tambor, as his character only gets around five minutes of screentime!). Thankfully, Corddry and Barkin (who’s closing in on 60 and is still as slinky and sexy as ever) are given fairly meaty roles, with Corddry, in particular, turning in one of his most well-rounded performances to date. As Chariot, Corddry doesn’t just deliver the film’s funniest lines, he also makes for a surprisingly convincing and complex “tough guy”. Were it not for the fact that hardly anyone’s seen the film, one could definitely call this a breakout performance!
The biggest problem with Operation: Endgame is that it really isn’t so much a movie as it is an excuse for a host of very talented people to kill each other off in gruesome fashion using everyday office products. We see arteries severed by staple removers, limbs hacked off by paper cutters, and heart’s perforated by pencils. It’s The Office meets The Texas Chainsaw Massacre with a little bit of Bourne thrown in for good measure, and it would have made for a fantastic bit of satire had director Fouad Mikati harnessed some of the energy he put into the films many bouts of fisticuffs and put it into generating stronger characterizations to help us identify with –or, at the very least, care about – some of these characters. I also found the film’s political leanings, despite being in step with my own, a bit overstated, and, while I understood the parallels Mikati and screenwriter, Sam Levinson, were trying to draw between the demise of the shadowy Factory and the rise of Obama, it all comes off as overly precious and naïve, as if to suggest that, in a world where Obama’s President, there’s no place for organizations like The Factory. It’s a message that feels especially out of place seeing that the rest of the film revolves around people killing each other with office supplies. Then again, perhaps it’s this message, however misguided, that drew the A-list roster to this project in the first place?
Anchor Bay initiates Operation: Endgame on Blu-ray with a solid 2.35:1 transfer that handles the film’s somewhat desaturated color palette nicely, boasting deep and true blacks, excellent contrast, and flashes of vibrancy when the scene calls for it (ie: blood, Empress’ red dress). Detail is exceptional, especially in close-ups of faces and fabrics. The audio track, while not flashy, offers up a meaty mix of crisp dialogue and nicely implemented surround effects. The 5.1 PCM track lacks punch, though, as the subwoofer is all but absent save for a scant few occasions.
Extras are sparse, with very short EPK featurette (SD – 10mins), an alternate ending that’s almost identical to the actual ending, and a three minute alternate opening sequence. Extras are rounded out by a collection of trailers for other Anchor Bay/Starz! releases.
Operation: Endgame is an ambitious film – perhaps too ambitious. First time director, Mikati, does an admirable job with the film’s action sequences, but does so at the expense of developing the characters into anything more than caricatures and cannon fodder. The political posturing is also a bit overdone and will no doubt put off some viewers. Despite the film’s shortcomings, I was still entertained, and recommend Operation: Endgame. Corddry’s hilarious performance is worth the price of a rental alone. Consider the gruesome violence and over-the-top fight scenes an unexpected bonus.