Tuesday, 17 May 2011


5, 4, 3, 2, 1.... SPOILERS!

Violence in movies is such a monumentally knotty subject. It demands knowledge of the context of the film, the intentions of the film-makers, the viewer's personal experience of real-life violence (you're probably less likely to respond well to a comedy about knife crime if you've been the victim of it), the style of the film, the potential audience for the film - and all these things are different for each production and for each viewer, making it very difficult to lay down any kind of rules as to what and what isn't acceptable. You can try and make the cold act of murder repulsive in a popcorn grossout way (a thousand slasher movies) or repulsive in a repulsive way (Henry: Portrait Of A Serial Killer); you can turn it into a parlour game (Agatha Christie, Midsomer Murders), you can fetishise and stylise it (a thousand gialli), you can pornographise and orgasmify it (gloriously senseless killfests of the vintage John Woo era).

Operation: Endgame starts out as a fairly uninteresting office-based comedy concerning two bickering teams of crack government agents in a secret underground facility which goes into lockdown when the boss (Jeffrey Tambor) is murdered. Worse, a countdown has been initiated that will flood the building with napalm (for absolutely no logical reason whatsoever) and the staff find themselves having to kill each other (again - why?) in order to get out alive. And not only do they have to kill each other, but they have to do it as violently as possible.

There are some big-name stars in this: Tambor, Ving Rhames, Maggie Q, Ellen Barkin, Zach Galifianakis, Odette Yustman (now Odette Annable), and the all-star killfest spectre of the Smokin' Aces movies, or films like Lucky Number Slevin, does hang over this film: snarky, sweary dialogue that feels like there should be a studio audience to laugh at it, callous but jokey violence with whatever's to hand in the way of office supplies (staplers, watercoolers, guillotines), and a growing sense that it's just not as funny as it's supposed to be. It's a hard film to like, with a gallery of characters it's hard to like or care about once their friends and colleagues start trying to kill them (particularly when it's completely unnecessary). Yes, there are a couple of amusing moments, and Ving Rhames is always watchable, but your life will be in no way lacking if you leave it on Blockbuster's shelves.


You be the judge:

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