Rated R - Running Time: 2:00 - Released 11/24/99

You know, if I were in a dark alley encountering a gang of street thugs, I would love to have Arnold Schwarzenegger on my side, but I don't know if I can buy him as the savior of all mankind. In End Of Days, Arnold plays the only man who is able to save us all from the absolute power of Satan. As long as he has enough bullets. With director Peter Hyams (2010, The Relic) at the helm, and such able actors as Gabriel Byrne and Rod Steiger in supporting roles, I was almost persuaded. But the leading roles are filled by Schwarzenegger and Robin Tunney, and they are not quite so able. Also, Andrew W. Marlowe's script reminds me of The Matrix; it's an interesting concept with cool effects and some decent acting, but relies too heavily on sophomoric, shoot-em-up action formulas for its own good.

It is late December, the end of the millennium. There are only a few days left until New Year's 2000, and New York City is preparing to party like it's 1999. Christine York (Tunney) is unaware that she was chosen at birth to be the bearer of Satan's offspring; she is aware, however, that she has been seeing visions of Gabriel Byrne for ages. Byrne plays the body Satan chooses to use for his desperate act (she could do worse), so throughout the story, his body is pursuing hers, because he must do the deed between 11 p.m. and midnight on New Year's Eve. Talk about pressure to perform.

Arnold plays Jericho Cane (get it?), a high-priced bodyguard and former cop who is struggling with alcoholism after the murders of his wife and daughter. He stumbles upon Christine's case when he takes a bullet to the chest that was meant for Byrne's body (I'm gonna call him Bb from now on). With the aid of his partner (Kevin Pollak), Jericho finds a group of Roman Catholic priests who are aware of Satan's plan and are trying to foil it by killing half of the unhappy couple. Of course, it ain't easy to kill Satan, so they're focusing on the girl. But these guys are really just a fringe element; the pope's official position is that they shouldn't kill Christine, but simply pray and have faith (a predictable stance). Father Kovak (Steiger) is of this opinion; he doesn't want to harm the girl, just hide her from Bb. But Jericho, who doesn't believe in God, knows that this is a lame plan, that Bb will find her eventually, and that priests don't usually carry guns. And guns, not God, are what you need when you're up against the devil. That or a fiddle.

The end of the millennium has predictably given rise to various doomsday movements all over the world, in the movies as well as real life. People just can't resist seeing symbolism in all those zeroes. But it seems that a Biblical conflict scenario like this would be better suited to a more intelligent treatment in the script than a commando action figure unloading his machine gun at the devil. The sub-plot about the girl being sacrificed fits the theme, but Arnold getting in fistfights with Byrne just hamstrings the ol' believability factor. Thank goodness for Steiger; he lends credibility to every scene he's a part of. Too bad he's not on screen more than a few minutes. Gabriel Byrne is enjoyably accessible as Satan — there's no stone throne or lake of fire for him; he's just a regular guy with a New York accent, trying to convince Arnold to do the wrong thing. And he makes a pretty darn good case, especially when Arnold is hanging by his fingernails from the windowsill of his high-rise apartment building. But Schwarzenegger lacks the emotional range for this part, and Tunney also struggles to convince. ***½

Copyright 1999 by John R. McEwen and The Republican

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