It's rare, but a couple times a year, I'll be caught by surprise by a film that went straight to DVD, and wonder how it skipped theaters. "Operation: Endgame" is one of them. With an all-star cast and a rat-a-tat delivery of action and comedy similar to "Smokin' Aces," the flick is nothing if not 82 sleek minutes of explosive fun.
Perhaps it's too arch, too dark, too oddball and/or too low-budget for today's popcorn-munching, blockbuster-hungry audiences. Whatever the reason, it's too good for me to not to give it a big, burly hug. Attention, America: "Operation: Endgame" is my new DVD BFF.
It's day one for Fool (Joe Anderson, recently seen in "The Crazies") at The Factory, a super-secret agency that even our own government won't acknowledge. Its HQ is several floors underground in a maze-like warehouse, and its agents work under tarot-card code names and are divided among two teams: Alpha and Omega. Fool gets the 50-cent tour from angry, alcoholic Chariot (Rob Corddry, funnier here than in "Hot Tub Time Machine"), and among things, learns the entire operation is headed by the Devil ("Arrested Development" patriarch Jeffrey Tambor).
When the Devil gets his due "? that's my clever way of saying he's assassinated by one of his own "? the entire place goes into lockdown. There's no escape, and Project: Endgame (yes, "Operation" is good enough for the title, but nowhere else) is enacted. It orders Alpha and Omega to split up and kill one another. Some agents are all too eager to do just that, while others hope to locate the idiosyncratic Hermit (Zach Galifianakis of "The Hangover") and hope he knows a way out.
While the cover art depicts most of the cast holding guns, the truth is they have to make do with whatever they can find around the cubicles "? be it a staple remover or memo holder or pair of scissors "? to dispatch their fellow employees. Yes, it's a bloodbath sponsored by Office Depot. Office Depot: Taking care of business.
Admittedly, "Endgame" lacks a bit of polish, but first-time director Fouad Mikati and screenwriter Sam Levinson have done a remarkable job as virgin filmmakers. For one thing, just look at the cast, which also includes Ellen Barkin ("Ocean's Thirteen"), Ving Rhames ("Surrogates"), Maggie Q ("Live Free or Die Hard"), Adam Scott (TV's "Party Down"), Odette Yustman ("Cloverfield"), Bob Odenkirk (TV's "Breaking Bad"), Brandon T. Jackson ("Tropic Thunder") and Emilie De Ravin (TV's "Lost"). For another, it's exciting, funny, sexy and a little bloody.
"Endgame" makes a better "Smokin' Aces 2" than the actual "Smokin' Aces 2." It's also reminiscent of last year's "The Tournament," also starring Rhames and another too-good-to-bypass-the-multiplex-but-it-did shoot-'em-up. It may be the best time I've had on the couch all year that didn't involve my wife and a glass of wine. "?Rod Lott