Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Foul-Mouthed Operatives of Operation: Endgame

Those cloak-and-dagger types are so villainous. They always want to eliminate America’s mortal foes. Of course, that just won’t do under the new Obama administration. It is time to reward our enemies and punish our allies, which leaves a cabal of old school assassins out in the cold in Fouad Mikati’s Obama-era spy spoof Operation: Endgame (trailer here), now available on DVD.

It is inauguration day, but something is definitely amiss in the underground bunker shared by Alpha and Omega, two rival black ops agencies deliberately established to counter each other—a scheme that makes sense only in Endgame’s paranoid world. Still, it supplies a decent set-up for some rude but admittedly funny office place humor. In fact, the first half hour zings along quite nicely as the explicit, politically incorrect insults fly back and forth between the assassins.

Unfortunately, it is blindingly obvious Mikati considers anyone who is not a lifetime subscriber to Mother Jones an unredeemable psychopath. Naturally, all matter of evil skullduggery is ascribed to Bush and Cheney, while the film wildly exaggerates the popularity of the incoming President, even though buyers’ remorse was by then already setting in.

The McGuffin kicking things off is botched operation to blow-up the warehouse that held all the evidence against the outgoing administration, conveniently centralized in one location. When it goes sour, it somehow ignites a death struggle between the Alpha and Omega factions. While both teams derive their codenames from tarot cards you can tell Alpha is evil because their ranks include an African-American Republican and a Southern girl who attended a mega-church. Subtly thy name is not Mikati (nor that of screenwriters Sam Levinson and Brian Watanabe). By contrast, Omega is a somewhat likeable collection of drunks, the very hot “High Priestess,” and the new guy who got tagged with “The Fool” on his rough first day on the job.

As Alpha and Omega go at each others’ throats they must improvise weaponry from common office supplies, leading to a few more grisly laughs. Indeed, Endgame could have been quite entertaining if it was not so intent on grinding its ideological axe. Rob Corddry (formerly of the Daily Show) proves to be a master of foul-mouthed insult humor as the DTing “Chariot.” Bob Odenkirk also deadpans his way to some decent laughs as “Emperor.”

Looking pretty scary, Ellen Barkin chews the scenery rather shamelessly as “Empress.” However, Maggie Q is indeed quite attractive as “High Priestess,” while also bringing some legitimate action movie cred to the proceedings. Unfortunately, Zach Galifianakis is largely wasted as the anti-social “Hermit.”

A truly squandered opportunity, Endgame potentially could have been a very funny espionage movie send-up (albeit darkly so). While Corddry and Maggie Q give the film a boast of energy whenever they appear on screen (for very different reasons), it ultimately sabotages itself with the constant halting distractions of its contemptuous political score settling. As a result, the cynical Endgame already feels dated. A real coulda-shoulda film, it releases on DVD today.