End of Days
Directed by Peter Hyams
Written by Andrew W. Marlowe

Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Gabriel Byrne


End of Days

Arnold Schwarzenegger has reached the age where his muscles are more a handicap than an asset. There are at least a dozen fistfights in "End of Days," and he loses every one of them until he brings out the trusty Glock, and when that doesn't work -- which is most of the time, since he's fighting the Devil or His agents -- he manages to find some really heavy artillery, and somehow that does the trick, at least for the moment.

"End of Days" is about -- well, I'm not sure you really want to hear this, but basically it seems that every thousand years the Devil (Gabriel Byrne, in a variety of accents that range from Italian to Little Italy) appears on earth to copulate with a beautiful maiden (Robin Tunney) who was picked at her birth in 1979 by the Devil to be his bride, and raised by his own people though she remains a total innocent, in order that he will make a baby with her at the exact turn of the millenium, which we know just happens to be the end of this month, and then that will enable him to rule the earth according to the predictions of Nostradamus and the Weekly World News -- no, I mean Revelations 20:7. You could look it up.

He must be stopped, but how? A group of priests have a plan to kill poor Robin before the nasty act can be consummated, which when you think about it is not a bad idea, but then there's Arnold -- ex-cop, current security guard, alcoholic, and unbelievable in all three guises, who just can't let that happen. And before you can say two hours have gone by, Arnold -- oh, hell, so to speak. Let's just agree that in this kind of film rape is not an option.

What is? Endless explosions, Devil-morphing a la "Terminator 2" and half a dozen other films, which are meant to show us that the Devil is not a man or whatever to be trifled with, lots of near-misses at the rape-table, actors with their tongues cut out, stigmata that come and go, Arnold crucified against a downtown Manhattan building and another actor crucified against the ceiling of his hospital room (don't ask), many temptations offered by the Devil to Arnold, including the return of his wife and child, whom God permitted to be murdered while Arnold was out protecting the city instead of coming home to the family.

The script, by Andrew W. Marlowe, has not even one character whom you might call fleshed-out, and Peter Hyams, who directed and is also credited as cinematographer, has managed what you might call a rock & roll style, since there's a whole lotta shakin' goin' on, from the rippling church pews you've seen in the trailer to entire buildings blowing up around Manhattan.

There is one nice piece of work in the film, and that is another expert performance by the formerly terrible Rod Steiger, who in his late years has discovered a real talent inside himself. He plays a priest who's caught up in the whole mishagoss, and does a nice job. That's two in a row for him, the other being "Crazy in Alabama," where he was the classic southern judge who saves the day for everyone.

To end on a high note, I can promise you that God or whomever does prevail at one second to midnight, though Byrne actually makes a nice case for atheism. In this film it's by far the preferable choice.    

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