End of Days (1999): written by Andrew W. Marlowe; directed by Peter Hyams; starring Arnold Schwarzenegger (Jericho), Gabriel Byrne (Lucifer), Robin Tunney (Bride of Satan), Kevin Pollak (Comic-relief Sidekick), CCH Pounder (Bad Detective), and Rod Steiger (Father Rod Steiger):
Dumb, often inept apocalyptic action movie that basically recasts the plot of The Terminator in Judeo-Christian terms (well, that plot borrowed from the Annunciation, so sauce for the goose…) and makes the Terminator the hero. Well, Arnold Schwarzenegger isn’t a robot. He’s woefully miscast as a burned-out, alcoholic ex-cop-turned-security-grunt mourning the murder of his wife and daughter at the hands of a criminal syndicate he testified against.
I mean, woefully miscast. Arnold may look like a lot of things, but despairing dissipation is not in his acting toolbox. This movie might have been marginally better with someone like Mickey Rourke in Arnold’s role. However, I’m not asking for a remake.
The action sequences range from inept to competent. Kevin Pollak, as Arnold’s comic-relief sidekick, has nothing to do and possesses absolutely no charisma or comic talent anyway. So we’ll recast him with… oh, who cares?
The mystical Christian stuff gets dumber the more it’s explained. You know you’re in good hands when you note that they’ve got a Hebrew document upside-down in the opening credits. The screenwriter (who would go on to create the TV show Castle, so good for him) also invents an order of Catholic Monks (the Gregorians, a mistake caused by all those monks selling albums of Gregorian Chants, I’d wager). And a complete inversion of the meaning of End of the World in the Book of Revelation. And a priest named Thomas Aquinas, a name no one comments on. And so on, and so forth. Tuco’s Dad (or was he Tuco’s grandfather?) in Breaking Bad plays the Pope. Yay!
Arnold Schwarzenegger really works hard here, but he was getting old and the character was way, way out of his range. Rod Steiger shows up in his last studio film to chew the scenery and keep people interested for as long as he’s on-screen. Arnold survives a crucifixion, harking back to Conan the Barbarian. Satan just wants to get a girl pregnant between 11 p.m. and midnight, New York Time, on December 31, 1999. Yes, it’s very similar to Vigo the Carpathian’s plan in Ghostbusters 2, where he has to possess Sigourney Weaver’s baby by midnight on New Year’s Eve. Ho hum.
The Satan Creature does look pretty good, so kudos to the Stan Winston Creature Shop. Too bad we only see it clearly for about 10 seconds. Gabriel Byrne does what he can with Satan the Man, but the script is terrible and Gabriel Byrne is not a threatening presence. Oh, well. Not recommended.