End of Days
1999, R, 118 min. Directed by Peter Hyams. Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Gabriel Byrne, Kevin Pollak, CCH Pounder, Robin Tunney, Rod Steiger, Derrick O'Connor, Miriam Margoyles.
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Nov. 26, 1999
To paraphrase the old soldier's saw, I know I'll go to heaven when I die, 'cause I've already been to End of Days. The first of this season's apocalyptic horror shows is so laughably bad on all fronts that you have to wonder if it isn't actually some subtle, clever riff on millennial fever by writer Andrew Marlowe (Air Force One) and director Peter Hyams (Time Cop). Would that it were. Instead, we're treated to such a broad panoply of godawful dialogue, righteously shoddy acting, and, worst of all for an action blockbuster of this sort, subpar effects work, that it's all you can do not to giggle helplessly. Sadly, End of Days falls just short of the “so bad it's good” category and instead ends up as a dull time-waster of a film, rife with overblown religious clichés, and so laboriously intent on achieving religious significance that the whole sorry affair collapses, gutshot, less than a third into its two-hour-plus running time. Positing Ah-nult as a holy avenger, “pure of heart” and weak of faith, may have been error number one. As private security expert Jericho Cane, he and partner Chicago (Pollack, filling in for Tom Arnold, apparently) stumble across what appears to be a Vatican cover-up on the eve of the millennium. New York City, hell on earth at the best of times, is suffering from bizarre underground explosions, and apparently this is linked with the return of Satan (an underwritten Gabriel Byrne) to consummate his relationship with a young bride chosen in a prearranged ceremony some 20 years before. Tunney, all feathered, back-blown hair (she looks like she's been out riding Harleys all day) is the chosen one who will bring about the “end of days,” the alleged moment during which all of creation is undone after the Horned One gets it on with his unwitting mistress. Luckily for Cane (and the world at large), the Father of Lies has only a one-hour window of opportunity to manage that sweet, sweet lovin' -- 11pm to midnight on New Year's Eve -- before being cast back down into the pits of Hades. Even the Devil himself has a curfew, it seems. As Cane and Chicago match what little wits are available to them with the minions of Satan (NYPD, apparently taking a tip from their West Coast brethren, are in on the dark deal), local Catholic priest Father Kovak (Steiger) struggles to provide sanctuary from the evils outside and assist with saving the world from within. Does it work? Do you care? I thought not. Byrne's lines seem too often cribbed from the much better scriptwork of the Al Pacino thriller Devil's Advocate, while the unshaven and curiously model-esque Schwarzenegger is forced to stumble over the most obvious of clues as though they are wooden logs placed in his way. Hyams' direction is pure bombast, chock-full of explosions that signify nada and ceaseless shots of the Times Square crowds getting ready to party like it's no longer 1999. “Enough with the Bible talk -- tell me what's going on!” implores Cane at one point, and you can only hope the line was actually penned that way. It's that bad. Judging from the audience, the world ends not with a bang (or a whimper), but a giggle. (opens Wednesday)