I know, I know, sorry for the two colons in the title. Just to be clear, the Hidden Gem in question is called “Operation: Endgame.” And it’s awesome.
I had to go halfway across the world to find this under-appreciated 2010 film. Far away in a magical place called Thailand, where selling bootlegged DVDs is a legitimate business and you can pick up six movies for a buck fifty, a friend and I stumbled upon this one. Having already picked up Crank 2: High Voltage and the latest Resident Evil (which was still in theaters in the same mall, by the way), we were stocking up for a terrible action movie night. Then my friend saw Operation: Endgame. Neither of us had ever heard of it, but it had like ten people with guns on the cover and…”Hang on, is that Jeffrey Tambor?” (From Arrested Development–shame on you if I have to tell you that). “And Zach Galifianakis? And Ving Rhames? And Rob Corddry (of The Daily Show and “Hot Tub Time Machine”–but don’t hold that against him)? And Ellen Barkin? And Adam Scott (Parks and Recreation)? How have we not heard of this movie??”
Needless to say we bought it immediately and fired it up, not really knowing what to expect. The first thing I should say about this movie is that you shouldn’t worry to much about plot. It’s definitely there–the whole film takes place during the inauguration of President Obama, and the events of the film are driven by a message about transparency in government and national security. But you could totally miss that part and it really wouldn’t matter. The point is: raunchy humor! Brutal violence! Desperate romance!
The setup is simple. At a top-secret underground espionage facility called the Factory where two teams of spies named for Tarot cards do the government’s dirty work, it’s the first day of work for the Factory’s newest recruit: The Fool (Joe Anderson). Within half an hour of being assigned a cubicle, someone finds his crazy boss (Jeffrey Tambor) dead in his office with a dozen number 2 pencils protruding from his chest. The Factory has been sealed shut and Operation: Endgame has been initiated. That means that in less than two hours, bombs throughout the base (helpfully labeled “napalm”) will go off and destroy everything and everyone inside, wiping all record of the shady Factory off the face of the Earth, unless the spies can find a way out. Chaos ensues.
It’s like a bottle episode of your favorite workplace sitcom, except that everyone in the office is trying to murder each other with whatever improvised weapon they can get their hands on. Get a good look at the DVD cover, because that’s the last time you’ll ever see one of the cast with a gun in their hands–there are none inside the locked-down Factory. (I would make fun of the movie cover at this point for showing something that’s never in the film, but like I said, the reason I first even noticed this movie was “GUNS!”) The timer runs down and the work environment becomes increasingly hostile up until an ending that, if you’re like me, you’ll never see coming. And at only an hour and 22 minutes, Operation: Endgame doesn’t overstay it’s welcome.
This is one of those films that’s hard to talk about because it doesn’t fit neatly into a genre (which incidentally describes a lot of the best movies out there). I can’t just call it a gory action movie, because it’s also a workplace comedy–I laughed my ass off. But I can’t call it just a cynical workplace comedy because…you know…murder and napalm. So is it an action-comedy? Not really, because the action and comedy are sort of distinct (although they go together wonderfully), and that makes it sound too light-hearted. But what I can call it is a for some reason undiscovered gem of a film that should be a cult classic. This movie definitely isn’t for everyone, but if you’re looking for black humor that would never make your mother laugh or a movie where you and your friends can take a shot every time someone dies, you could do a whole lot worse than Operation: Endgame.