A70-2067This is not quite the piece of shit critics treated End of Days to be, but its not a very good film. This is a classic example of a cool concept gone awry. The film is set on the eve of the new millenium, December 1999. According to the Bible, a 1000 year period  is about to end and Satan (played brilliantly by Gabriel Byrne) will have sex with a virgin and begin a reign of darkness…unless Arnold Schwarzenneger has anything to say about it. Arnold plays a suicidal ex-cop on a security assignment that leads him through a series of events involving him in protecting a virgin girl (Robin Tunney) against the Lord of Darkness and his minions.

The director, Peter Hyams, does a good job in conveying the end of the millenium and the accompanying doom and gloom forecasts from the media about Y2K and such. He effectively ties all of this in with the devil’s plans, creating just the right tone for the story. I also liked the decision to use a burned-out, hopeless man to be savior of the girl. I know this sounds a bit trite and obvious to have such a character, but it fits. Unlike his firefighter character in Collateral Damage (see my review here), we can at least justify Arnold’s ass-kicking abilities. However, an issue that stood out for me with his character here is his motivation for pursuing the girl and saving her from the devil. Considering how little he cared for his job or even for living, it doesn’t make much sense for Arnold to want to go through all this trouble to find the girl or risk his life for her.

Did I mention how awesome Gabriel Byrne is in playing the devil? Now I love The Devil’s Advocate, particularly Al Pacino’s portrayal of the devil. Byrne, however, takes it to the next level. He delivers a nice mix of dry humor and threat into the role. Combined with his looks, Byrne’s take on the devil is more convincing and fun to watch than Pacino’s interpretation (NOTE: But you still must watch The Devil’s Advocate if you have not done so already).

With such good things about End of Days, what makes it so bad? The film defies a lot of logic to get to its conclusion. I already mentioned the lack of Arnold’s motivation to save the girl. The movie resorts to lazy storytelling by making Arnold too stupid to realize that bullets won’t kill the devil. For all the amazing detective work he does to figure out the girl’s identity, you would think Arnold would be intelligent enough to realize that the devil doesn’t react to bullets. Another glaring problem is the large number of followers the devil seems to have. We get introduced to a couple of secondary characters that Arnold knows and works with. Lo and behold, they ALL turn out to be devil worshippers. This strains the limits of my imagination and it makes the story much too convenient for the audience.

End of Days, unlike most of Arnold’s films, is much darker than what we’re accustomed to seeing when we watch his films. Arnold had made a string of comedies in the 90s and the abysmal Batman & Robin. He was ready to get back into the genre that made him a household name and End of Days seemed like the perfect vehicle to mark his return to hard-R action films. As I alluded to before, in the hands of a more competent director, this film may have turned out to be one of Arnold’s best films. Arnold’s best films are those in which he faces overwhelming forces (i.e. Predator, Conan the Barbarian, Terminator 2) and given the heavy opponents he has dealt with in the past, who poses the ultimate threat than the devil himself? Unfortunately, here I felt that the script simply could not gel together. I thought many individual scenes worked well, but the film failed to present one, well put-together story.

If you love Arnold films, you might consider checking this out. Its not by any means a return to his classic action form, but its better than most of his recent films. This film had a potential to be a great, but it was given to a hack director who didn’t possess the vision to make it work. Instead, we’re given a pale shadow of what could have been.