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Dustin Putman

Endgame  (2015)

Reviewed for by Dustin Putman

The Film
2.5 Stars
(Release Date: July 5, 2016) – There isn't a single surprising development or unforeseen story turn in "Endgame," and yet, as a study in formulaic Screenwriting 101 filmmaking, it's really rather pleasant and sometimes surprisingly moving. A sports drama directed and co-written by Carmen Marron, the film follows a 12-year-old boy, Jose (Rico Rodriguez), grappling with tough life truths while moving ever closer to the state championships with his Texas middle school's chess team. That, in a nutshell, is the entirety of the plot, though it is the relationships and themes—including the tragic loss of a loved one, feelings of parental neglect, and undocumented immigration—hanging on the periphery which give the proceedings a well-meaning purpose.

Setting "Endgame" in the predominately Hispanic border town of Brownsville, Marron and co-scribe Hector Salinas bring a touch of grit to what easily might have become an overly sugary Hallmark movie. On screen for nearly every second, Rico Rodriguez (TV's "Modern Family") is naturally sympathetic even when Jose is acting out in difficult ways, while Justina Machado (2014's "The Purge: Anarchy") poignantly conveys the weight of her grief as mother Karla, unable to reconcile the death of her eldest son. Supporting turns from Efren Ramirez (2009's "Crank: High Voltage"), as inspiring chess coach Mr. Alvarado; Ivonne Coll (TV's "Jane the Virgin"), as Jose's caring abuelita; Alina Herrera, as Jose's best friend Dani, and Cassie Brennan (2014's "The Single Moms Club") as cute, flirtatious chess competitor Sandy, fill out a world that feels closely observed and lived-in. "Endgame" isn't quite the second coming of 1993's "Searching for Bobby Fischer"—there are still some forced and too-cutesy moments—but the film paints chess as an enticing game of strategy, one that provides Jose with a way to cope in a world that isn't always fair.

Read Dustin's Theatrical Review

Blu-ray Picture/Sound

"Endgame" was lensed digitally by cinematographer Francisco Bulgarelli, and the film offers up a satisfying 1080p presentation. Image depth falls on the flat size and there are a couple minor signs of banding, but excellent detail and clarity in facial features, textures and backgrounds are undoubtedly head and shoulders above the DVD counterpart. The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio effectively utilizes its lossless mix even if the film itself is dialogue-centric and light on action. The music is especially potent in its delivery, while dialogue is even and clear.

Blu-ray Features
  • Audio Commentary with writer-director Carmen Marron
  • Behind-the-Scenes Featurette (10:10, HD)
  • Deleted Scenes (5:28, HD)
  • Hispanic Heritage Promo (1:55, HD)
  • Trailer (2:23, HD)
Bottom Line
Shout! Factory's Blu-ray release of coming-of-age family picture "Endgame" is a welcome addition to the company's high-def slate and comes with a number of pleasing special features. Formulaic but earnest and likable, the film will easily entertain kids and prove familiar yet certainly diverting for adult viewers. Recommended.

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© 2016 by Dustin Putman
Dustin Putman

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