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Monday, December 15, 2014

END GAME -- movie review by Porfle

(NOTE: This review originally appeared online at in 2006.)

1993's IN THE LINE OF FIRE gave us Clint Eastwood as a Secret Service agent on the trail of a wacko assassin whose goal was to kill the President. END GAME (2006) opens with the assassination of the President and then shows us how Secret Service agent Alex Thomas (Cuba Gooding, Jr.) discovers a dark conspiracy behind the "lone assassin" and puts his life on the line to find out who's behind it.

Both Eastwood's Frank Horrigan and Gooding's Thomas suffer from guilt related to a President's death; Horrigan, because he wasn't quick enough to take the bullet meant for JFK, and Thomas, because the assassin's bullet struck the President only because it changed direction after passing through his outstretched hand.

As Thomas takes some time off from the job to languish in his lakeside home and see how fast he can drain several bottles of hooch, investigative reporter Kate Crawford (Angie Harmon, GLASS HOUSE: THE GOOD MOTHER) starts digging into the killer's past.

She uncovers a link between him and a secretive government agency that may have been involved in the assassination, and is alarmed to find that everyone she is receiving information from is being systematically murdered by some bad guys in a black van.

When she goes to Agent Thomas' house for further help, the black van shows up there as well, and things get rather explosive. Thomas begins to buy Kate's conspiracy theories after he himself becomes a target, and together they work their way toward the truth as things get darker and more dangerous at every turn.

END GAME isn't quite a top-of-the-line Hollywood blockbuster but it's definitely worth watching. The production values are very good and the story kept me interested from start to finish.

There are plenty of great action scenes, too, especially when Thomas and a ten-man strike force invade a factory where the black-van guys are holed up and get into a furious shoot-out with them, which leads to a cool car chase in which the main bad guy (Peter Greene, who played "Zed" in PULP FICTION) attempts to discourage Thomas from pursuing him by machine-gunning oncoming vehicles off the road. At first Thomas is too determined to let even this slow him down, but the next vehicle headed toward them is a loaded school bus...

Everyone behind the camera does fine work here, and the cast is highly capable. Cuba Gooding has a talent for creating sympathetic characters without overplaying, which he demonstrates here with his deft performance. Former "Baywatch Nights" regular Angie Harmon is particularly good as well -- her intrepid reporter is likably tenacious and funny, and she and Gooding make a great team.

Old fave James Woods is excellent, as usual, but doesn't get nearly as much screen time as I hoped after seeing him on the DVD cover, though he makes the time he does have count. Familiar television veteran Jack Scalia gives us a likable President (for a little while, anyway), and his First Lady is well played by Anne Archer, who was the wife of Harrison Ford in two of the "Jack Ryan" movies.

The homeless man who first supplies Kate Crawford with information before being bumped off will be recognized by "Dark Shadows" fans -- he's David Selby, who played the werewolf Quentin Collins on that classic series. And the vicious killer who tries to terminate Agent Thomas's investigation, as I mentioned before, is played by none other than "Zed" from PULP FICTION, Peter Greene. ("Zed's dead, baby...Zed's dead.")

Not coming off quite as well, however, is Burt Reynolds as a retired Army general who still likes to keep his irons in the political fire. Burt's heart doesn't really seem to be in his performance here, and his alarmingly advanced state of cosmetic surgery (looking at his tightly-stretched face may give you a tension headache after awhile) distracts from what ultimately ends up being a pretty irrelevant character anyway.

After suffering through [a particularly bad movie] last night, I needed to watch a real movie to help me drag myself out of the depths of cinematic despair, and END GAME was just the ticket. It's not in the same league as IN THE LINE OF FIRE or one of the Jack Ryan movies, but I was certainly very well entertained for an hour and a half, and that's good enough for me.

Buy it at


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