End of Days (1999)

reviewed by
"Average Joe" Barlow

End of Days
A movie review by Joe Barlow
(c) Copyright 1999
STARRING: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Gabriel Byrne, Kevin Pollak, Robin
DIRECTOR: Peter Hyams
WRITER: Andrew W. Marlowe

There's no way I can review Peter Hyams' End of Days without sounding like a bully, so it may as well hand over its lunch money now. While there's a certain amount of glee involved in watching a movie composed almost entirely of cliches, explosions, and howlingly bad dialogue, there isn't a whole lot of entertainment value. Well, that may not be entirely true: there are plenty of laugh-out-loud moments in End of Days... which would be good news indeed, if the film was a comedy.

It's the end of the millenium, and Satan (Gabriel Byrne) has come to Earth to claim a bride. The lucky gal is Christine York (Robin Tunney), a twenty year-old New Yorker who doesn't seem particularly interested in being a concubine to the Lord of Darkness, so she runs around and screams a lot. But if the devil can work his hootchy-cootchy on Ms. York between 11pm and midnight on New Year's Eve, he will, for reasons I'm still not sure I understand, gain dominance over Earth. It's up to Jericho (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and his partner Chicago (Kevin Pollak) to save the world, a feat which will naturally involve blowing up lots of stuff.

End of Days is so stupifyingly silly that I don't even know where to begin. The stream of killer urine, perhaps? Or the "fake scares" which pop up roughly every five minutes or so (you know the drill: someone walks into a dark room, a jarringly loud chord plays on the soundtrack, and BOOM!--the cat appears)? Or maybe I should tell you about Jericho's idea of a nutritious breakfast? It doesn't matter; suffice it to say there's no shortage of pointlessness to be found here, with the silliness culminating in a lovely scene in which Arnold gets his buff ass kicked by a fretful middle-age Jewish housewife.

One of the things I've come to realize as a critic is that I'm often harshest to films which personally disappoint me in some way, rather than those which are completely wretched from start to finish. End of Days annoys me in a very specific manner: it had potential. Indeed, there is one scene roughly two-thirds of the way through the film which actually borders on wonderful: the face-to-face confrontation between Jericho and Satan. Everything clicks: the dialogue sparkles, the performances catch fire, the screenplay resonates with wit. For these five minutes, the script rivals Kevin Smith's Dogma for intelligent religious satire.

Alas, this scene is so fascinating that it only serves to underline the rest of the film's banality. It dangles the lost potential of the story in front of the audience's eyes like a carrot before a mule. Paradoxically, this scene is partly responsible for my low rating of the movie: by revealing the heights which the script and performances are capable of achieving, I'm all the more disappointed with the tale's inability to reach its demonstrated potential. Had the movie been consistently wretched, I may actually have rated it a bit higher: my expectations wouldn't have been raised, and I wouldn't have thought the story capable of anything better than mindless entertainment.

I'm sure I'll get a lot of angry letters over this review, as most of the audience at the preview screening I attended seemed to be having a far better time than I was. But unfortunately, I have to call it as I see it, and I think time will prove me correct--too much of the film revolves around topical dialogue (the end of the millenium, numerous jokes about the Y2K bug, etc.) Even the people who like End of Days right now will surely find it hokey and dated in the near future. Maybe if we're lucky, it'll disappear for another 1,000 years.

     RATING: * out of a possible ****

Copyright (c)1999 by Joe Barlow. This review may not be reproduced without the written consent of the author.

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