Principal Cast : Arnold Schwarzenegger, Robin Tunney, Gabriel Byrne, Kevin Pollack, CCH Pounder, Derrick O’Connor, Miriam Margolyes, Udi Kier, Mark Margolis, Rod Steiger, Victor Varnado, Marc Lawrence, Denice D Lewis, Mo Gallini.
Synopsis: At the end of the century, Satan visits New York in search of a bride. It’s up to an ex-cop who now runs an elite security outfit to stop him.
I guess when you’ve defeated every Earthly monster known to man, the final boss has to be literally Satan, right? Arnie’s Y2K supernatural thriller might lack genuine thrills, and is often an incomprehensible mess, but watching the Austrian Oak tackle religious angst and suicidal tendencies against Gabriel Bryne’s sexy-as-hell turn as the Devil is a blast and a half. It helps that the film is directed by Peter Hyams, a man of inestimable visual style who sometimes utterly lacks the ability to self-edit his creative decisions (The Musketeer, Timecop), but since he gave us Capricorn One, 2010 and 1997’s hilariously cool The Relic, I am prepared to give him a pass on just about anything. End of Days is a very horny film born of humanity’s fear of the new millennium, predicated on religious and social hysteria surrounding the approaching year 2000 – the film came out late in 1999, just in time to capitalise on the real-world clock turn – and although it gets incredibly stupid by the end there’s enough sexy, bloody, sweaty New York City action to overcome even the most hyperbolic of editing flourishes.
Arnie plays grief-stricken personal security officer Jericho Crane, recently made a widower after the murder of his wife and daughter. Together with partner Bobby (Kevin Pollack) they offer their services protecting high profile visitors to New York City. Unwittingly, they are involved in an assassination attempt on a mysterious man (Gabriel Byrne), whose body is in possession of the Devil himself, who has arrived in the city to consummate an unholy union with twenty-something orphan Christine York (Robin Tunney), in order to bring about hell on Earth as the clock turns over the year 2000. With a bodycount growing the Devil’s work draws the attention of the NYPD, led by Detective Francis (CCH Pounder), while Christine’s surrogate family – psychiatrist Doctor Abel (Udo Kier) and housemistress Mabel (Miriam Margolyes) – work to keep her safe until Satan can complete his mission.
End of Days is a film of particular taste. If you find kinetic and discombobulating editing a positive in the cinemagoing experience, you’ll find Steven Kemper’s frenzied cutting of this film to you liking. If, like most, you prefer clarity in action and dramatic sequences then End of Days won’t be for you. If you like to feel partially blind whilst watching a film, Hyams’ dark, oppressively incoherent cinematography feels like you’re growing cataracts while you’re watching. If you enjoy faux religious musical accompaniment that feels like a mix of Lord of The Rings and Hans Zimmer’s Gladiator, John Debney’s score and music choices are… a thing you’ll have to endure. And if nothing else, the dialogue and exceptionally clumsy exposition dumps will make you wish screenwriter Andrew W Marlowe (Hollow Man, Air Force One) had taken at least 1 class in “developing tension through mystery” writing.
In spite of these deficits I still had a blast with this film. Arnie is as Arnie does, hefting his weaponry and impenetrable accent around all manner of Biblical transcriptions and having not one but at least two full standing arguments with an actor like Rod Steiger (what the fuck is Rod Steiger doing in this film, for that matter?), and the likes of CCH Pounder, Kevin Pollack and Udo Kier make for a convincing ensemble amidst this apocalyptic asininity. Having the most fun is Gabriel Byrne, who gives Al Pacino in Devil’s Advocate a run for his money in a wild, off the chain performance as Satan in human form. Byrne has the devilish glint in his eye as he molests, murders, fucks and howls his way through the City that Never Sleeps, with Hyams… er, having a hell of a time reining in the actor’s natural charm to the point he makes the Devil one sexy badass. Schwarzenegger is no thespian but Hyams was smart to surround him with decent talent to share the screen with. For her part, Robin Tunney’s role of Christine is pretty pedestrian, even if Hyams does the viewer a solid in getting her to take her top off at one point, although this will hardly be a highlight in her career.
End of Days is dumb, often dull pseudo-religious idiocy designed to sit within a very specific timeframe and appeal to a very specific type of viewer. There’s some explosions, some nudity, some human sacrifice and a smattering of Papal espionage, overburdened by Arnold Schwarzenegger’s proclivity for mangling the English accent and the man’s underachievement with dramatic acting, and aside from atrocious editing is worth at least one look. Hold your expectations very low, you’ll have a stupid good time, despite not being able to see or understand what’s going on.