End Game (2009)
Reviewed by The Foywonder
Starring Kurt Angle, Jenna Morasca, Sam Nicotero, Natalie Bail, Eric Wright, Jonas Chaney
Directed by Bruce Koehler
Kurt Angle. Olympic gold medal-winning amateur wrestler. World championship-winning professional wrestler. Future award-winning actor? Hey, two out of three ain't bad.
I could see him getting his feet wet in the acting world appearing in a broad comedy or doing the typical b-action movie thing, but playing a devious, smooth-talking, charismatic, master of disguise serial killer requires a thespian skill set that Kurt Angle does not currently possess. Angle's best acting moment has him do nothing more than stare ominously at a victim without a shred of emotion in his eyes, which he does convincingly, though still looking as if he were a Terminator that wasn't issued hair at the Skynet factory.
What we have here is another one of those serial killer movies where the cunning murderer spends most of the running time toying with potential victims and the cops after him. The killer frequently changes his appearance, sometimes even passing himself off as a policeman working his own case. The killer also relishes the cat & mouse game he plays with the lead detective on his tail (i.e., calling up the man's house at all hours to taunt him). The detective - married with a young special needs daughter - further plays into the killer's hands by getting involved with the stripper roommate of his most recent victim whom he has now begun targeting.
End Game is a pretty lousy movie. That should not come as a shock to anyone when talking about a no-budget serial killer flick starring a professional wrestler and a reality television star turned professional wrestler. Now to be fair, all of the acting ranges from sub-par to terrible to laughably bad. The entire production gives off the vibe of a student film project. There’s so much blue tint lighting used they should have cast The Undertaker instead of Angle. Frequently static camerawork makes many a scene feel like you're watching the filming of a lethargic stage play. That's a fitting comparison given the acting much of the time left me feeling like I was watching the rehearsals. Not that the script would make for a compelling thriller even with a bigger budget, a better cast, and a faster pace. Watching End Game isn't so painful that you'll need 70 Vicodins to get through it, but I would advise some pep pills to keep you from falling asleep during the extremely dull parts.
If you're looking for a compelling serial killer thriller, this is so not it. But if you're a Kurt Angle fan or a connoisseur of movies about or starring professional wrestlers, End Game is an absolute must-see.
Kurt Angle stars as sexual predator Brad Mayfield AKA the "Stranglehold Killer", a serial killer who has gained his rep for asphyxiating female victims to death after sex. Only the first we see him kill in the film will die at his hands via what I suppose you could call strangulation. The next female victim he seduces gets her neck broken. A male victim (non-sexual, thank goodness) then gets stabbed. I was hoping someone would get anklelocked to death – no dice. For a guy billed as the "Stranglehold Killer", he doesn't seem beholden to that particular means of murder.
The movie opens with Angle going doggy-style on his first victim, during which he will redefine the concept of the "rear naked choke" by cupping his hands over her mouth and smothering her to death. So if you've ever wanted to see Kurt Angle's fuck face while repeatedly asking the woman he's banging from behind "You want me to make you cum?" over and over...
Personally, I could have lived without ever having to see Kurt Angle's O-face. Not quite as psyche-scarring as the Chyna sex tape or the horrifying thought of one day accidentally stumbling upon an underground viral video of Ox Baker getting titty fucked by Abdullah the Butcher, but this was still not a position I ever wanted to see our Olympic hero in.
Mayfield has now set his murderous sights on the exotic dancer roommate of his most recent victim. Such as the harrowing scene where Mayfield dressed like a cat burglar tries to break into her apartment by lying on the floor and sticking his hand underneath the front door with a lockpick device; she stabs his hand with a screwdriver and he screams like a woman. Something about the staging of this scene left me wondering when Dick Tracy would arrive to question witnesses.
Jenna Morasca, a former "Survivor: Amazon" contestant who posed for Playboy and is now part of the roster of Total Non-stop Action wrestling (the same promotion Kurt Angle just happens to wrestle for), co-stars as a stripper who never takes off any clothes. She develops a relationship with the cop hot on Mayfield's trail after he pays her a visit at the strip club where she works and watches her never remove a single article of clothing while barely moving on stage.
Should I mention now that the filmmakers were shooting for a PG-13 rating? Despite opening with a sex scene and setting other scenes inside a strip club, there is no actual nudity and the violence is fairly tame. This strikes me a major miscalculation. When you set out to make a motion picture about a psycho sexual serial killer that preys primarily on exotic dancers, it just seems to me that right from the get-go you should already be thinking in R-rated terms. I've seen 15-year-old reruns of "Silk Stalkings" more salacious than End Game.
The cops can't seem to catch Mayfield. That strikes me as odd because Mayfield works in an office under his real name even as the police are on the hunt for him. Maybe I missed something along the way. I have to confess to having been bored into such a stupor at times - anytime the focus was on the police side of things or the melodrama of the lead detective's personal life - paying attention to the details became quite the arduous task. Sorry to say there's very little entertainment value outside of the unintended comedy stemming from the novelty of Kurt Angle's "acting" and his silly disguises.
Mayfield's favorite disguise is that of "Detective Bishop", a heavy-set policeman with a voice so husky it could win the Iditarod. A brown fedora, a brown suit designed to make him look at least 50 pounds heavier, and a latex face appliance meant to make him appear older and fat faced: it's astonishing how much Angle in this outfit combined with his phony deep voice makes him a dead ringer for Tor Johnson in Plan 9 From Outer Space during the scenes of Johnson playing police detective. It simply has to be seen to be believed.
Even more amazing because when we get close-ups of "Detective Bishop" his completely unnatural complexion has the texture of a shinier, more rubbery version of Richard Lynch's face. He's about as normal looking as Fantastic Four's The Thing whenever he'd walk around in a hat and overcoat, and yet nobody looking at him is ever the wiser.
Another awesome disguise has Angle dressing up as a birthday party clown to get inside the investigator's house. As carnival music plays over the entire scene, Doink the Olympian will KO the wife with a punch to the face and then deadpans the line "It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood." That incredible moment sets the stage for my favorite exchange of uproariously bad dialogue. Not sure why I laughed so hard at this particular dialogue exchange; possibly because the actor playing the lead detective has a voice almost as gravelly as Don Frye, which just made it sound funnier than it was. As his wife is being loaded into an ambulance (that must have been a hell of a punch!), the detective asks what happens, and she tells him that Mayfield has abducted their special needs daughter, Chrissy.
"Who did this?"
"He took Chrissy."
"HE TOOK CHRISSY?!"
Yet End Game is still better than 95% of Hulk Hogan’s filmography.
1 out of 5