END OF DAYS (M). (Beacon/Village Roadshow) Director: Peter Hyams Stars: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Gabriel Byrne, Robin Tunney, Kevin Pollack, Rod Steiger, CCH Pounder, Derrick O'Connor, Miriam Margolyes, Mark Margolis, Udo Kier Running time: 120 minutes.
After a two year hiatus from the screen, a period that included heart surgery, Arnold Schwarzenegger is back to prove that he is still the main man when it comes to big budget action films. Guiding him through his paces in his return to the screen is Peter Hyams (Capricorn One, etc), who gave fallen action star Jean-Claude Van Damme two of his best films in Time Cop and the Die Hard clone Sudden Death. Thankfully, End Of Days is Schwarzenegger's best action flick since True Lies.
Best described as The Omen meets The Terminator, End Of Days is the first major mainstream film to tap into the paranoia and fear surrounding the end of the millennium and the uncertainty surrounding what the brave new world will bring. Written by Andrew Marlowe (Air Force One, etc) the film deftly mixes Biblical prophecies about doom and the end of the world with pyrotechnics and spectacular action sequences.
Here Arnie tackles no less a villain than Satan himself. In the form of Gabriel Byrne, the devil has come to New York to wreak havoc according to an ancient prophecy from the Book Of Revelations. He has to consummate his relationship with the virginal Christine (Robin Tunney, from The Craft, etc) in the hour before midnight to consolidate his power in this world. Christine has been specially protected by guardians since her birth to ensure she is kept pure for Satan's inevitable arrival.
Arnie plays Jericho Cane (a suitably Biblical name for a flawed hero), a former cop now working as a body guard for a high tech protection firm. He becomes involved in trying to protect Christine, not only from the devil himself, but from a hit squad of Vatican sanctioned assassin priests, who want her removed for obvious reasons.
Arnie is back to doing what he does best, carrying high power weaponry, destroying half a city and killing half the population of a major city to perform his duty. However, his seemingly invulnerable character here has a little more depth than we normally expect from the one dimensional Schwarzenegger, although his act of sacrificing himself to save mankind reeks of the end of Terminator 2.
Kevin Pollack does his familiar schtick as the wise cracking off sider, and brings some humour to proceedings. Byrne (who hits for the good guys in the forthcoming spooky religious thriller Stigmata) does a wonderfully malevolent job as the devil in human form. Rod Steiger (who was originally slated for the Byrne role) contributes a smaller role as a priest who urges our hero to have faith.
End Of Days may lack a little in the logic department, but it certainly makes up for these failings with some spectacularly staged action sequences and great special effects. Hyams, who also doubles as cinematographer, handles the action with his usual efficiency, and he doesn't let either his star or his audience down.
***1/2 greg king http://www.netau.com.au/gregking
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