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Thursday, December 27, 2012

Day 362: End Of Days

End Of Days
Schwarzenegger should never be sad. He should always be punching something.

Arnold Schwarzenegger fights Satan on the eve of the new millennium. That plot sounds like it was written on the back of a high school notebook next to “Metallica Rulez” and doodles of pirates battling ninjas. While it sounds like a wacky idea it also sounds like a fun one. Schwarzenegger is not exactly known for his work in horror and the supernatural so the idea of him battling the forces of evil is at least different. Even in the late 90's, Arnold was still a draw as an action hero and slightly more believable battling the devil than, say, Jean-Claude Van Damme or Steven Seagal. Add in a well-rounded cast and some fun special effects and you can't go wrong, right?

End Of Days is a 1999 supernatural horror/action movie starring Arnold Schwarzenegger (The Running Man, Total Recall) as retired cop Jericho Cane and Gabriel Byrne (Stigmata, The Usual Suspects) as Satan. In 1979, newborn Christine York is chosen to bear Satan's child 20 year's later on the eve of the new millennium. The Pope sends out priests all over the glove to find the child and protect her from Satan. Twenty years later, Satan comes to Earth and possesses a Wall Street Banker, leaving death and destruction in his wake. Jericho Cane is assigned to protect the banker, unaware of his true nature, and saves him from an assassin. The would-be killer is revealed to be a priest named Thomas Aquinas (Derrick O'Connor, Dardevil, Deep Rising) who was sent to protect Christine. Jericho and his partner Bobby Chicago (Kevin Pollack, Wayne's World, Canadian Bacon) discover Aquinas's hideout and eventually find a now-adult Christine York (Robin Tunney, The Craft, Empire Records). She is attacked by the Vatican Knights, a group of Catholics that believe the only way to prevent the End of Days is by killing her. Jericho saves her, but Bobby is killed by Satan in an explosion. As Jericho and Christine escape, they first stopped by Christine's adoptive mother and fellow police officer Marge (CCH Pounder, Warehouse 13, Avatar), both who are in league with Satan. Satan visits Jericho in his apartment and tries to tempt him, offering to reunite him with his murdered wife and daughter. He refuses and shoots Satan to no avail. Eventually, Christine is captured by Satan and taken to a secret location in order to fulfill his evil mission. With New Years fast approaching, how will Jericho be able to save Christine and defeat the devil himself?

Don't leave the Prince of Darkness hanging

On the surface, the basic premise of End Of Days doesn't sound that bad. Sure, it's been done before and is fairly cliché, but it's not a terrible idea. Throwing in a mega star like Arnold Schwarzenegger, even at a price tag of $25 million, sounds even better. Unfortunately, that's where the good ideas end. The movie is a poor patchwork of various other Satanic horror movies and the final product is a confused mess that is high on explosions, but low on logic. It's never really clear why Satan chose the body that he did or why he chose to stay in it for so long. If he can control people, why does he have so much trouble finding and keeping Christine? Why is Jericho able to resist his control? Why does he need protection at the beginning of the movie in the first place? And if both the Vatican and Satan's minions have been planning for this event for two decades, why are they both completely inept? If the movie went at a quick pace, maybe some of these gaping plot hole. Instead we get a movie over two hours long full of extended fight scenes. I like fights and explosions as much as the next person, but it really kills any horror and suspense that the movie may have had. Another thing in the movie that I really didn't like was the hyper-sexual nature of the story. The entire plot is based on Satan raping a girl and along the way, he molests a few other women. There is even one scene involving incest. Implying these things would have been bad enough, but they are up front and in your face. It made me quite uncomfortable and took my focus away from the rest of the movie.

When you think of a depressed, suicidal cop from New York, do you think of Arnold Schwarzenegger? Of course not, which makes his casting in the role of Jericho Cane (nice name) a little strange. He does his best to show emotion and range, but really, it's just Arnold Schwarzenegger. He runs, he jumps, he shoots. He gets a lot of help from a pretty good cast that includes Kevin Pollack, CCH Pounder, Rod Steiger, and Udo Kier. Gabriel Byrne is out of place in his role since Satan is strangely portrayed not as evil, but mischievous. There was one funny scene where Satan told a skateboarder that he liked his “Satan Rules” shirt. The movie's soundtrack is also notable as it is a snapshot of what was popular at the time. Songs from bands like Korn, Limp Bizkit, Rob Zombie, Eminem and a new song from Guns N' Roses find their way into the movie at random intervals. The movie uses a lot of special effects, some good while others look dated through modern eyes. Thanks to international numbers and DVD sales, the movie did fairly well, but not as well as studios were expecting. Maybe the world just wasn't ready for a depressed Arnold and a goofy Satan.

Look at that emotion!

End Of Days sounds decent on paper. It has a big-name star, a good supporting cast, lots of violence, special effects, and a hip soundtrack. Unfortunately, the movie's story is all over the place, leaving huge plot holes and focusing more on action than horror. There aren't many scares to be had and certain overly-sexual scenes will make just about everyone reach for the remote. Both Arnold Schwarzenegger and Gabriel Byrne look out of place in the movie. No one wants to see a depressed Arnold trying to show emotion and no one wants a boring Satan. End Of Days is good for a nostalgia trip and for an explosion fix. That's about it.


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