End of Days
Directed by Peter Hyams
Review by Matt Heffernan
I anticipate some of the films that I see not only because of good advance "buzz", but sometimes because of the story that went behind making it. Usually, when the back story is louder than the buzz (such as in Wild Wild West), that means the film itself will be far less interesting. This kind of anticipation is more of a morbid fascination, similar to how a coroner must feel before an autopsy. Arnold Schwarzenegger's first vehicle since 1996 has had a very dramatic story, with no less that two discarded directors. They should have realized that this screenplay by Andrew W. Marlowe (Air Force One) shouldn't have been made. Well, so much for "shoulda".
It's late December, 1999, in New York and (that's right folks!) it's time for the end of the world. Private security officers Jericho Cane (Schwarzenegger) and Chicago (Kevin Pollak), are hired to protect an investment banker from homocidal loonies. One such loonie happened to be a priest named Thomas Aquinas (Derrick O'Connor), who spoke to Jericho about the coming of Satan, even though he had no tongue and was about to die. His interest piqued, Jericho investigates this priest, and the weird church he belongs to. He finds out they are looking for a woman born twenty years ago, who will conceive the spawn of Satan, and the apocalypse should be under way before the ball drops in Times Square.
Jericho is well ahead of the police, and finds the Devil's fiancée: Christine York (Robin Tunney), whose name was magically cut into Aquinas' chest, and conveniently lives right in the city. She's had visions all her life of getting it on with Gabriel Byrne, and wouldn't you know he plays the banker whose body was possessed by the Dark Prince. Jericho has to keep her virtue until Y2K rolls around, and Satan's wild oats run out.
Upon seeing End of Days, it's difficult to figure out what to make of it. Marlowe is the only credited writer, but it sounds like many meddling hands have interfered. Or possibly, it was just bad to begin with. Or, maybe it's the way Arnie delivers his lines. All I can say is that the end result is not satisfactory. Any attempts at being profound fail dismally. In some parts, there is a self-conscious attitude that questions the plot (when told the deadline is midnight, Jericho sarcastically asks, "Eastern Time?") which would indicate some subversive motivations, but it still plays like a typical Hollywood extravanza: very loud, but bloated and weak.
Perhaps the biggest hurdle for this film's credibility is the choice of character names. They aren't exactly subtle, and they would suggest satire, but the film fails in that arena yet again. Is the film trying to be sincere when it deals with Jericho's past? It is an incredibly sentimental part of the film, and its saccharine aftertaste could induce vomiting. Or, is this a satire of action films with a maudlin "emotional" center? Either way, the execution is too poor to recommend this R-rated film to anybody over 17.
The outcome of this film is all too similar to 1993's Last Action Hero. That one at least came clean with its satirical nature, but nobody cared. Now we are told to take this film seriously, when it's just as troubled and ridiculous.
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End of Days (1999)
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Review © 1999 Matt Heffernan