If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my explorations in film over the years, it’s that you’ve got to trust your gut and risk a couple hours of your life. It’s easy to stick to the kind of thing you know and love, but in doing so you deny yourself the joy of the unexpected triumph. Operation: Endgame had absolutely no business being a watchable or competent film and I wasn’t really expecting to pay much attention to it or even watch it the whole way through. The basic premise is that rival teams of spies are locked in their underground headquarters with two hours to go until a bomb takes them all to Hell. Some kind of uneasy marriage of Last Comic Standing and Battle Royale. I just couldn’t pass up the vague possibility of greatness based on the ridiculously stacked deck of comedic talent on display led by Rob Cordry and Zack Galifianakis, both riding high off sleeper hits and in top form and flanked by an Expendables of TV comedy supporting cast including Arrested Development and Mr. Show alumni.

Cordry is an absolute show stopper as the hard drinking, shit talking Chariot who is really just the quintessential Rob Cordry character with a gun. Cordry has carved himself an impressive niche playing the broken down remains of misspent manhood with only the brilliant and permanently cringe inducing Danny McBride as any kind of contemporary. I’d be hard pressed to believe that Cordry wasn’t doing copious amounts of ad libbing, but even so Sam Levinson’s draft of Brian Wantanabe’s story deploys the entire cast in roles they fit like a glove. Galifianakis’ role isn’t much more than a cameo, but he casts a haunting presence across the film that epitomizes Operation: Endgame‘s bizarre against all odds ability to straddle the line between outrageous farce and genuinely suspenseful thriller and come out a winner in both categories. Ellen Barkin even steps up to match the effortless brilliance of her male co-stars with an unforgettable performance of her own as the acid tongued villain. There’s no real weak link in the cast and not a second goes by without a thrill or a laugh. You’ve got to be the kind of person who gets excited about small time character actors to get enthusiastic about this movie though. Everyone and their dog either is either ecstatic or affecting it for Danny Trejo’s hard won ascendancy to action star in Machete, but it’s an entirely different and far more eccentric thing to get excited about seeing Bob Odenkirk in a straight to video shoot ’em up. Well, it’s not really a shoot ’em up, most people die grisly deaths caused by office supplies, but you know what I mean.

My most cynical and ultimately wrong expectation of the film was that no matter how funny it actually was, the production values would probably damn near sink it with the poor man’s shot on video look that plagues contemporary low budget genre filmmaking. I’m not going to sit here and say that the cinematography and editing are the equal to A Single Man, but it’s abundantly clear that everyone involved had one goal in mind; to make the best, most entertaining movie they could given their budget and complete lack of hope for any kind of significant accolade or financial success. Operation: Endgame is without a doubt on par with Ocean’s Eleven for pure fun ensemble filmmaking and oddly enough seems to be at the vanguard of a fresh new wave of similar fare that hasn’t even made it to the theaters yet like The Expendables, RED, and Machete.

It’s nowhere near the greatest movie you’re going to see this year, but let’s face it; you need something to bridge the gap between Hot Tub Time Machine and RED. This is that movie.

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