End of Days is a 1999 film directed by Peter Hyams starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. There’s also Gabriel Byrne in it, which is the reason that prompted me to rewatch it after seeing Hereditary (2018), also starring Gabriel Byrne. Was it a good idea? I could have done better things, of course, but I must admit that this two hours passed quite well, although this is certainly not a great movie. What’s it about?
This is one of the many movies that exploited the imminent end of the last millennium to deal with catastrophes and the possible end of the world. In this case, on December 31st 1999, Satan returns to Earth to inseminate a young woman and begin to reign over humanity. Too bad it finds Arnold who wants to ruin its plans! Although Satan (who owns Gabriel Byrne’s body after moving like a Predator through the streets of New York) can count on various followers led by Udo Kier, nothing can be done against the ex-policeman Jericho (Arnold) who for some strange reasons decides to protect young Christine (Robin Tunney) at the cost of his life.
Here’s the plot. Jericho and his friend Chicago (Kevin Pollack who, like Byrne, was one of Brian Synger’s Usual Suspects in 1995) work as private security guards in New York. One day they’re hired to protect a rich guy (no one know that he’s possessed by Satan) who’s targeted by a sniper. After a daring pursuit on the roofs of Manhattan, it turns out that the sniper was a Catholic priest who manages to speak even though he has no tongue. After a quick search in the horrible place where he lived, Jericho and Chicago find a photo of a girl and for inexplicable reasons they become passionate about the case. When the priest is killed in the hospital in a cruel way, Jericho is the only one to understand the fundamental clue, the girl’s name, and the two reach her just in time to avoid her death at the hands of three killers (who turn out to be Catholics trying to fight the devil).
In short, Jericho decides to protect Christine even if everyone, and I mean everyone, goes against him: the police (led by CCH Pounder, who sounded familiar to me for his role in Avatar, 2009), his friend Chicago, the evil cultists… In short, the plot is nothing out of the ordinary and the movie only counts on Arnold to shine in some way: will Satanists be able to defeat mighty Arnold to allow the Lord of darkness to rule Earth? In other words, this is no Rosemary’s Baby (1968), nor The Omen (1976), or, to name some more recent examples, Darkness (2002) or Hereditary (2018). At the same time, and luckily, it’s also a much better movie than Commando (1985) and Raw Deal (1986)!
End of Days is a Nineties’ action movie a bit full of ugly digital special effects (the fire in the church is unwatchable in the finale), in which there are many scenes which do not work and are there solely to give something to do to the big star like the very long helicopter chase at the beginning, or the scene in which Arnold equips himself with a thousand firearms, but even the endless shootings on the subway, and the hand-to-hand combats that never end. As for the latter, there’s even a ridiculous one in which Christine’s old fat step-mother throws Arnold around the room as if he were a balloon – maybe that would have worked better with Tom Cruise who was originally in the project. There are also a million plot holes so the movie must be seen with the brain switched off in order to enjoy it at least a little bit. Not to mention the classic cliché of the protagonist who believed in God but who lost his faith after the death of his wife and daughter (due to his intransigence in his work as a policeman)!
At the same time, Gabriel Byrne is amazing in the role of the horny evil lord (see for example the scene in which Udo Kier offers him both his wife and his daughter) and the first part which is relies more on the investigation and mystery is decent. It’s a very dark film because it was shot almost entirely at night (a curiosity: Peter Hyams deals with the cinematography of all the movies he directs), it has a nice atmosphere which is lost only in the long fighting scenes, unfortunately abundant in the second part. In any case, it can be a fun choice to spend an undemanding evening, even if it doesn’t get to be a real guilty pleasure for me. Ciao!