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End Of Days (1999)
Director: Peter Hyams

review by Dawn Andrews

Arnold Schwarzenegger's presence on screen is and always has been larger than life. There is a genuine feeling of integrity about the man that creates regard and affection, perhaps the secret of his lasting appeal. Arnie returns in this supernatural thriller as Jericho Cane, a drug-dependent alcoholic and walking armoury, with no zest for life. He starts the film with a gun to his own head and spends a large percentage of the rest getting crucified (at one point literally) by just about everyone, including a witch with a sinister hidden agenda, Miriam Margolyes, various assorted gangs of Satanic groupies, even a bunch of militant Catholic priests. In the scene with Margolyes, Arnold's comic timing in being hurled around the room by her is used cleverly, to maximum effect. He endures all this in his efforts to protect a young woman named Christine York (a suitably wide-eyed Robin Tunney) who just happens to be Satan's intended hot date for the millennium - who must be laid on the dot, so to speak, if his nefarious plan for the 'end of days' is to come to fruition.
   The struggle is brought down to earth big time by Gabriel Byrne's snaky and shape-shifting devil, who takes over the body of a Wall Street big shot, and then proceeds to destroy, maim and seduce as much as he possibly can, in the time allowed. There are stunning pyrotechnics and the usual "I'm the devil and therefore irresistible" routines, although the flesh melding effects in one scene are unusual and visceral. The confrontation between Schwarzenegger and Byrne is well played, moving, and laced with a plethora of devilish one-liners, like God described mockingly as "the greatest under-achiever of all time," and the bible reduced to a single, pointed maxim, 'shit happens'. Unfortunately, the Catholic overtones simply do not work - they are handled too heavily and become ridiculous, inviting unfavourable comparisons to The Omen. But this is not a serious film, despite the studio hype. It is a vehicle for Schwarzenegger's brand of cataclysmic mayhem, overlaid with steadfast acting and backchat (as in the scenes with Kevin Pollak, who plays 'Chicago') and has a charm that is all its own. No Arnie fan will be left dry-eyed by the ending, I am sure.
previously published online in VideoVista #16
End Of Days
Read our review of
The 6th Day

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