‘Endgame’ Makes Plenty Of Smart Moves

Courtesy: Shout! Factory

Courtesy: Shout! Factory

The underdog story is one of the most overly story types in the movie industry today.  From Rudy to Rocky to Remember The Titans and beyond Hollywood loves visiting the underdog arena.  In all honesty, it is the view of this critic that Hollywood loves the underdog arena way too much.  That is because of the genre’s overall lack of creativity and originality. It seems that nine out of every ten underdog stories offered to audiences today present roughly the same story just in a different setting.  While that is a somewhat disheartening number to consider, it does at least mean that every now and then there is one underdog story that makes up for the other nine that are otherwise forgettable.  Earlier this month Shout! Factory released one of those standout offerings in the form of the indie underdog story Endgame.  The movie, originally released nationwide on September 25th, 2015, was released earlier this month on DVD and Blu-ray by Shout! Factory.  While it might not be the most memorable movie of its kind to ever be released it is still a worthwhile alternative to all of the other run-of-the-mill stories within that arena.  That is especially true in considering the movie’s story, which is just one of its key elements.  The work of the movie’s cast is just as important to note here.  That will be discussed later.  The bonus material that is included with the movie’s new home release rounds out the most important of its elements.  It completes the movie’s presentation in its new home release and shows once more why this indie underdog story is just as inspirational and moving as its more well-known counterparts and in turn, is worth at least one watch.

Endgame is hardly the first underdog story to ever be presented to audiences in cinematic history.  It is however, an underdog story that is just as inspirational as its more well-known counterparts.  In turn it is an underdog story that is worth at least one watch as is evidenced in the movie’s central story.  The story follows a young Latino boy named Jose (Rico Rodriguez—Modern Family, The Muppets, Epic Movie) who happens to be quite the talented chess player.  Growing up in the poor community of Brownsville, Texas, chess is the only thing that brings him any joy in life other than his grandmother (Ivonne Coll—Jane The Virgin, Lean on Me, The Godfather: Part II).  That is because he is living in the shadow of his older brother Miguel (Xavier Gonzalez—Between Us, Walk Away, Stories of the Paranormal).  Miguel is a rising soccer star and everybody knows and loves him.  They expect Jose to be just like Miguel.  But when Miguel is killed in a late night car crash, life changes for everyone, including Jose and his divorcee mother.  Chess becomes even more Jose’s escape and his source of strength.  The story eventually sees Jose and his team mates in his school’s chess team inspire each other and their entire community as they make their way to the state chess championships.  Even Jose’s mother and grandmother are inspired and moved in their own way.  What is most interesting of the whole story is that while the story does end at least somewhat as expected there is a surprise of sorts in the end, too.  That unexpected ending element is actually a pleasant surprise.  It won’t be revealed here for the sake of those who haven’t yet seen the movie.  But it is nice to see that writer/director Carmen Marron didn’t let the story remain formulaic even in its end.  Staying on that train of thought, Marron’s approach to her adaptation of the real life events on which this movie are based is to be just as commendable as the story itself.

The story at the center of Endgame is in itself worth at least one watch.  That is because it isn’t just another underdog story centered on a boxer, football player (or team), or sports team in whole.  Rather it focuses on one community’s banding together behind an unsuspecting middle school chess team in one of Americas most underprivileged school districts.  While the story’s “nothing to something” story line is ultimately not that original the story is still original in its own right since few if any underdog stories have ever centered on such subjects.  That is just part of what makes the story stand out.  Writer/director Carmen Marron’s approach to the story is just as important to note in considering the story as the story itself.  That is because unlike other screenwriters, Marron didn’t try to make Endgame into yet another run-of-the-mill, over-the-top epic underdog stories of which audiences are all too familiar.  Rather she made sure that the story maintained a certain sense of humility throughout instead of letting it become one of those almost pompous presentations that are so common among its more well-known counterparts.  At the same time, being a Dove Foundation approved movie it also didn’t have that overly cheesy vibe of so many other movies given the okay by the Christian-based film rating organization.  Rather it has more the feel of a general independent movie than one of its over-the-top big brothers or one of its cheesier indie counterparts.  In other words, it boasts its own approach, and in turn identity thanks to Marron’s approach.  When this is taken into consideration along with the story itself the two elements combine to show why Endgame’s story makes its worth at least one watch.

The story at the center of Endgame and the approach taken in creating the movie are both important pieces of the movie’s presentation.  Both by themselves and together, they make the movie worth at least one watch.  They are not the only important elements to note in examining the movie’s presentation.  The work of the movie’s cast is just as important to note as that of Marron in developing the story.  Rodriguez, Coll, and Justina Machado are among the most notable of the cast members in considering the cast’s work.  Whether alone or together, each actor puts forth an admirable performance throughout the movie.  Thanks to Rodriguez’s performance, so many younger audiences will be able to relate to Jose regardless of nationality.  Even older audiences may find themselves being able to relate to Jose.  That is because so many people have faced the same sibling issues that Jose faced and the related frustrations.  It makes Jose’s frustrations completely understandable.  Rodriguez’s handling of those emotions is just as relatable to many viewers.  Given, probably not every has broken a sibling’s trophy out of anger, but they have likely broken something belonging to a sibling out of anger towards said figure.  In the same breath, likely fewer people have ever had to deal with the death of a sibling (or even a child) at such a young age.  But there sadly are those few that have dealt with it.  Being that there are those who have, they will appreciate the pure emotion exhibited by all three actors.  It would have been so easy for each to go over the top in their portrayal of their respective characters’ sadness of Miguel’s death.  In a much bigger budgeted film, that might have even happened.  That’s especially the case since this has in fact happened in said movies.  But none of the trio went to that length.  It makes each individual’s performance all the more believable and engaging.  On a different note, the relationship between Jose and his grandmother is just as enjoyable to see.  Coll and Rodriguez have such wonderful chemistry when they are on screen together.  It is clear in watching them that thy really enjoyed working together.  Because they had so much fun together audiences will enjoy their performances just as much.  There are so many other performances that could be cited here in explaining why the cast’s work is just as important to the movie’s presentation as its story.  They include that of Rodriguez’s cast mate Alina Herrera (Marrying God, The Little Samaritan, Caribe Road) as Jose’s frien Dani, Efran Ramirez’s (Crank, Napoleon Dynamite, Eastbound & Down) take on Jose’s teacher Mr. Alvarado, and Jon Gries’ (Napoleon Dynamite, Taken, Men in Black) take on Principal Thomas.  Each actor puts forth his (or her) impressive performance throughout the movie.  Their performances couple with those of Rodriguez, Coll, and Machado to show even more clearly why the work of the movie’s cast is just as important to its presentation as that of Marron in crafting the story.  They are not the movie’s only important elements, though.  The bonus material that is included in the movie’s home release is just as important to note as its story and the work of its cast.

Writer/director Carmen Marron’s work in developing Endgame’s story and the work of the movie’s cast in interpreting Marron’s scripts are both important in their own right to the movie’s presentation.  Each element makes the movie worth at least one watch.  They are not the movie’s only important elements, though.  The bonus material that is included with the movie in its new home release is just as important to the movie’s presentation as its writing and acting.  The most notable of those bonus materials is the movie’s bonus behind-the-scenes featurette.  This is important to note because it is rare for a behind-the-scenes featurette to add any real value to a movie’s presentation.  More often than not they are little more than space fillers regardless of the studio.  But in the case of this movie it actually adds quite a bit to the movie’s presentation.  Audiences learn in watching this featurette that lead star Rico Rodriguez actually came into the movie with at least some knowledge of chess.  He openly admitted that he was hardly a professional.  But he did have at least a certain amount of knowledge and understanding of the game.  So being involved in the movie, he states in his interviews that has in fact served to strengthen his interest in the centuries-old board game.  That is quite the statement.  On a related note, audiences will be just as interested to learn in this feature that the movie was recorded in just 19 days, many of which couldn’t even be full, eight-hour days.  That is due to labor laws preventing minors from working eight hours in a single day.  Most of the 19 days in question turned out to be about 6 hour days because of those labor laws.  All of this is so notable because of how the movie turned out in the long run.  Again, it boasts its very own identity both within the underdog arena and within the Dove-nominated field.  It stands out in both fields both in terms of its look and its feel.  This is the case even with the movie having been recorded in just 19 days.  That is truly extraordinary especially for an independent movie.  Just as interesting to note is the fact that the movie was filmed completely on-site in Brownsville, Texas.  That adds even more to the movie’s believability.  By direct connection the revelation of the community’s welcoming nature towards the movie’s cast and crew is just as interesting to learn.  It echoes the togetherness exhibited by the community in the movie.  This shows once more the importance of the movies bonus material in regards to the movie’s overall presentation.  Even Marron’s own audio commentary throughout the movie adds its own interest to the movie.  When that engaging bonus material is set alongside the movie’s story and the work of the movie’s cast, the presentation in whole proves why it is, again, worth at least one watch.

Endgame is not the first underdog story to ever be presented to audiences either independently or on a major scale.  It is however, just as inspiring and moving as its more well-known counterparts past and present.  That is due to its largely original story and the approach taken in presenting the story.  The work of the movie’s cast plays its own part in making the movie worth seeing.  The same can be said of the bonus material included in the movie’s recent home release.  Each element plays its own important part in the movie’s overall presentation.  All things considered they make the movie more than just another underdog story.  They make it an underdog story that is worth at least one watch.  It is available in stores and online now and can be ordered online direct via Shout! Factory’s online store at https://www.shoutfactory.com/film/film-drama/endgame. More information on this and other titles from Shout! Factory is available online now at:




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