End of Days (1999)
“When the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison.”
End of Days (1999)
Director: Peter Hyams
Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Gabriel Byrne, Robin Tunney
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.
In addition to the mystery of how dear old Miriam Margolyes (The Awakening) found her way into an Arnie blockbuster, End of Days raises a number of questions. Examples:
1. Why haven’t any of those countless film crews been decimated in a mid-air collision while filming an aerial view of the Chrysler building at night? 2. Why didn’t the devil’s would-be assassin simply double back when being chased by hanging-from-a-helicopter Arnie? 3. Why does Arnie keep two guns under his collar? 4. Why does Robin Tunney kick her legs like a silent-movie heroine when being carried to the altar?
Arnie’s resurrection as an action hero didn’t quite go to plan (at least, if you believe the critics) but, really, this is little different from the stuff he was churning out throughout the eighties and nineties, and you can’t blame a guy for believing that if it ain’t broke, why fix it?
The much-hyped depth of characterisation he was supposed to display in this movie never materialises: Arnie is simply Arnie; he can’t act for toffee, but we knew that anyway, and his character is at least a welcome departure from the wisecracking stereotype he normally portrays, even if the depth is only skin deep.
Gabriel Byrne (Assault on Precinct 13) rises head and shoulders above the rest of the cast – even an unrecognisable Rod Steiger (sans toupee) who is saddled with a particularly poorly developed role – and all the choice lines are reserved for his urbane (and horny) devil: “Me, I don’t do guilt,” he smirks as he attempts to win Arnie over to his side. I guess, with his dark and smouldering looks, it was only a matter of time before he played the part and, for my money, he makes a better job of it than Pacino.
Unfortunately, in the end, the movie fails. The impending millennium is a fortunate coincidence to which an old tale is opportunistically fastened, and the only interesting dilemma created – whether it is acceptable to commit a minor evil in order to prevent one much greater – is barely explored. The suspense falters beneath overblown action sequences and ludicrous last-minute escapes and rescues, and the movie eventually degenerates into little more than a stalk-and-slash film. And Robin Tunney is a major drawback, offering a bland, two-dimensional interpretation to her role that even the Austrian Oak manages to eclipse.
(Reviewed 8th July 2002)