End of Days

Schwarzenegger vs. Satan

The apocalypse has been the general theme running through genre films in 1999, so why shouldn’t larger than life Arnold Schwarzenegger get in on the action? And what better foe should he take on in his first film after heart surgery than Satan himself?

Okay, so Satan should rightfully be able to squash Arnold like a bug with his demonic powers. End of End of Days. So what screenwriter Andrew W. Marlowe (Air Force One) has come up with is something a bit more workable, if no less ridiculous. He has this Satan (Gabriel Byrne, switching sides from Stigmata) be the kind of Lord of Darkness that can be slowed down, not unlike the T-1000 from Terminator 2. Also, to bring Arnold into the story, Satan needs to hire a security team to protect him from snipers!

Satan is in New York taking human form, planning to impregnate his Chosen One, Robin Tunney (The Craft). Sweet, innocent Robin bears his mark, and Satan’s legions have been keeping an eye on her awaiting his return. Meanwhile, different secret factions of the Vatican are working hard to either kill her or protect her.

After Arnold takes a couple bullets meant for the Devil, he smells that something’s not right when the assailant turns out to be a priest who can speak in tongues without a tongue. Later, the tongueless priest is found nailed to the ceiling of his hospital room to prevent him from talking. Naturally, ex-cop Arnie and his sidekick Kevin Pollak (The Usual Suspects) hide evidence from the police and try to investigate on their own. Naturally, despite the fact that he’s playing the type of burnt-out role usually reserved for Bruce Willis, the audience is expected to go along with this. Naturally, to maintain sympathy, Arnold’s alcohol and drug addictions are downplayed.

That’s the kind of senseless logic at work here: Satan doesn’t want what he’s up to to be discovered, so to allay any suspicions he goes around blowing up buildings. He could kill his enemies any time he wants to and take what he wants, but I guess he just can’t resist tempting another soul, or showing off some flashy f/x.

Former Chicago TV news anchor Peter Hyams (The Relic) directs with his usual flair – that is, during action scenes he uses lots of fast cuts, during suspenseful scenes he doesn’t. This is probably the flashiest of all the recent films that are centered on Y2K, while taking some guarded shots at the Catholic church, but it’s far from the best. It’s mainly been assembled using parts from better movies, and not always the best parts. I would have liked it far better if it had taken a few chances – despite the nudity and gore on display, this is a relatively safe picture. I guess the best thing you could say about it is that we probably won’t be bothered by a sequel for another thousand years.

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