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End Game

Sony Pictures // R // May 2, 2006
List Price: $24.96 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Scott Weinberg | posted April 15, 2006 | E-mail the Author
The Movie

I'd say it's a huge shame to see what's become of Cuba Gooding Jr. since his Oscar win, but since the guy's never once given a good performance (OK, aside from Jerry Maguire, fine) I don't think it's all that big of a shame. Hollywood's full of over-lucky, under-gifted actors, and Cuba's just one of many. But just for the fun of it, let's rattle through Gooding's cinematic output from 1999 up to an including 2006's predictably disposable End Game:

Instinct (1999), Chill Factor (1999), Men of Honor (2001), Pearl Harbor (2001), Rat Race (2001), Snow Dogs (2002), Boat Trip (2002), The Fighting Temptations (2003), Radio (2003), Dirty (2006) ... and now End Game, an assassination flick that just might pique your interest because it co-stars James Woods, Anne Archer, Angie Harmon, Burt Reynolds, and Jack Scalia as The President.

But that cast list should tell you all you need to know about the justifiably direct-to-video yawnfest that is End Game. Directed by former stunt-master Andy Cheng, End Game's a whole lot of fun during the impressively kinetic action scenes -- too bad the action scenes represent maybe 12% of the flick's running time.

The lion's share of the running time is devoted to a hoary old Secret Service story about murdered presidents, guilt-ridden bodyguards, and nasty skeletons hidden in all the expected closets. Gooding's the agent who failed to thwart a presidential assassination and now finds himself hunted by the killers; Woods is his well-intentioned (?) superior; Harmon is the boring snoop of a reporter; Archer is the overwhelmed leading lady; and Peter Greene ... well, if you know who Peter Greene is, then you already know if he's playing a good guy or a bad guy.

It all plays out like a wanna-be episode of 24 or a screenplay that was deemed "just a little too good" for Seagal or Van Damme to anchor the thing -- and there's very little here that espionage aficionadoes haven't seen before about 121 times over. The actors, professionals that they are, glide through the tedium, doling out their dialogue with as much enthusiasm as possible. Meanwhile, a bunch of barely related plot contortions take place in the background. It all leads up to a finale that offers a few casual twists and a stunner of a finale that'll have you wondering "hmph, ok, what else is on?"

The fistful of car chases and gun battles is scant but welcome sustenance -- because the rest of End Game is strictly movie-of-the-week-style material. And, for the record, Cuba doesn't do much to salvage the threadbare material.

The DVD

Video: Anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1). Picture quality is fine throughout.

Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 (English or French). Optional subtitles are available in English, French, and Spanish.

Extras: Just a bunch of trailers for Ultraviolet, Dirty, When a Stranger Calls, The Russian Specialist, Underworld: Evolution, Chasing Ghosts, The Pink Panther '06, Freedomland, The Patriot: Extended Cut, and Black Hawk Down: Extended Cut.

Final Thoughts

It's not that I want to dislike this Gooding guy, and I'll be the first one to give the guy some love when he dishes out some solid work -- but clearly End Game is not his "comeback" flick. The guy needs to get himself on a good TV series before he ends up co-starring in the next Wesley Snipes DTV junkpile.

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