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. End of Days (1999)
How big is Arnold Schwarzenegger? Forget the
international body-building titles, the above-even-the-director credit lines, the preview
ads that read only: "Schwarzenegger December 1999". In End of
Days, Arnold faces his biggest foe ever Satan himself. But even with a large
dose of his trademark grimacing, grappling and gunfire, Arnold cant save these Days.
The film takes place over the last
four days of this century, and takes almost that long to establish its plot line.
Schwarzenegger plays Jericho Cane, an alcoholic and cynical ex-New York cop who left the
force after organized crime retaliation for his testimony against some highly-placed
baddies resulted in the murder of his wife and daughter. Along with his sidekick (Kevin
Pollack) he now works for a high-tech, high-priced security company. They're protecting a
Wall Street investment banker when a rooftop sniper takes a few potshots. The sniper turns
out to be a Catholic priest, and Jericho (where do they come up with these names?) ties
the sniper to what else a sinister plot. A couple of them, actually.
Turns out that the Devil's in New
York to celebrate the Millennium, and he's even hornier than usual. Gabriel Byrne is the
investment banker, whose body Satan has appropriated for use during his time here on
Earth. Satan needs a body for an unholy purpose - he's in search of nubile Christine York
(Robin Tunney) who twenty years ago was born and anointed specifically for the purpose of
serving as his mate. Satan's mission is to have sex with Christine sometime during the
waning hour of the century. If he succeeds, the gates to the netherworld will be opened
and all Hell will - well... you know. Not only is Satan in search of Christine, but so are
a cadre of Catholic Guards they've been recruited by a renegade Vatican Cardinal
who figures that the best defense is a good offense, and that Christine should be killed
before Satan can have his way with her. So to protect Christine, Arnold not only has to
fight The Baddest Guy of All, but some good guys as well. What's a savior to do?
For a story line involving The End
of The World As We Know It, there's little suspense, and any surprises are largely of the
"yowling cat jumping out off a just-opened refrigerator" variety. The acting is
mostly pale carbon copies of better work done elsewhere. Al Pacino's Old Scratch in The
Devil's Advocate stirred up cauldrons of brimstone and bluster. Here, Gabriel
Byrne seems more bemused than Beelzebub. In The
Craft Robin Tunney played a suburban witch with cunning energy, but as Byrne's
satanic squeeze she's required only to look perkily fetching and scream "NO!!!"
every five minutes. Rod Steiger, as a Catholic priest, is on hand to issue the obligatory
obtuse and stentorian pronouncements and warnings. Arnold for once just looks...
tired. For all the firepower, his Jericho Cane exhibits little spark, and the patented
Schwarzenegger action-film quips are largely missing. When he finally tells Satan to
"Go to Hell", you cringe even Arnold seems embarrassed to be mouthing
Director Peter Hyams (here also
serving as his own director of photography) started his media career as a Chicago TV
anchor, so it's perhaps not surprising that his films (Capricorn
have always seemed better suited to the smaller screen. End of Days suffers from
the same ailments Hyams' close-ups are too-intimate, his shot framing
claustrophobic. Action scenes are mostly set pieces, and an opening stuntfest involving a
chase across rooftops with Arnold rappelling out of a helicopter was remarkably
Just as Stan Lee is held to
different standards than Seurat, so is it with movies - a film doesnt have to be a
masterpiece to be hugely entertaining. End of Days tries to be epic in scope but
only results in committing the one unpardonable action movie sin. Its Hell is boring. And
it's boring as Hell.
- Bob Aulert