I blame David Fincher, Andrew Kevin Walker, and Arthur Max for End of Days. Had those three not done such stellar work on the movie Seven, Fincher directing, Walker writing, and Max doing the production design, there would not have been a flood of pale imitations that hit the market. End of Days is not about a serial killer, but it has a drained, desolate look and feel that just didn’t exist in film before Seven. And the thing is, this movie is a bit of a laugher, but it looks so bleak that at times I felt like I was laughing at a funeral.
End of Days stars Arnold Schwarzenegger as Jericho Cane, a high-priced bodyguard who also happens to be a suicidal alcoholic, owing to the deaths of his wife and daughter. What a bummer, man. This may be a Schwarzenegger flick, but backstory in his typical movies was fluff. In this one, we get to delve down into the dark places of his character, and it’s not all that pleasant. This is what I mean by Seven being an influence. Because Kevin Spacey put Gwyneth Paltrow’s head in a box, everything cartoonish and fun about movie violence was excised in the late ’90s. I suppose that could be considered a good thing. Violence isn’t supposed to be fun. But, come on. It is. Especially when it’s not real.
Arnold’s nemesis in this one is Satan himself, currently slumming it on earth after taking over the body of Gabriel Byrne. Much of the serious nature of this movie is abjured solely by the scene in which Byrne’s nameless character is introduced. Without spoiling things too much, it is one of the most outlandish and shitty bad guy entrances I’ve ever seen in a movie. Director Peter Hyams really pulled out the stops in introducing mythology’s ultimate villain.
Satan is among us because it’s only a few days until New Year’s 1999. Oh, I forgot to mention. End of Days was released just over a month before when it takes place. For those readers who may have been young children in 1999, the approaching millennial changeover was a big deal. Every nut job and doomsayer in the country seemed to come out of the woodwork howling prophecies of doom and gloom. For some reason, the approach of an arbitrary number set these people on edge. Even though our rational selves prevailed (for once), enough people were predicting the imminent arrival of the end times that these ideas infiltrated popular culture.
Which is where Satan comes back in.
He’s here to get laid. An ancient prophecy has foretold that once every thousand years, Satan gets the opportunity to mate with a chosen female, and their progeny will bring about the apocalypse. Wouldn’t you know it, turns out the nice round number fast approaching on the calendar is not so arbitrary after all.
Through a series of tortured machinations, Jericho ends up in direct conflict with Satan, as he finds himself the only person on the planet capable of keeping Satan’s betrothed, Christine York (Robin Tunney), from him.
Most of this film is fairly action-packed, if nonsensical. A religious conflict of the utmost importance is being waged in the streets of the most populated city in the United States, and no one seems to notice it. There’s a pack of Satanists that seem to have managed to infiltrate the police, and the Catholics seem clued in (it’s always the Catholics in films like this), but that’s it. Here we have actual proof of the existence of the supernatural, of evil in the truest sense of the word, but it’s still all very hush hush. I guess it’s more believable that way.
Even so, the scale of this film is impressive. I haven’t said ‘wow’ over an explosion in a movie in a long time, but there’s more than one in this film that made me notice. It’s over the top, and it kind of needs to be. Because even though the story required much more thought to assemble compared to something like Commando, it’s still pretty boilerplate. This late in his career, Arnold needed something with a bit more bite to stay relevant. Too bad this isn’t it.
Alien: Resurrection is a better movie than End of Days.