End Of Days (1999): Breakdown by Kain424
A down on his luck former cop battles Satan to prevent the Apocalypse.
After Eraser, Arnold took a three year break from straight Action films. While Arnie made an infamous appearance in Batman & Robin, it certainly wasn’t seen as a return to form. In his absence, effects-heavy spectacle films took a firm hold on the genre. Early in 1999, The Matrix was released to great acclaim, but would only cause further emphasis on effects and unlikely, “geek” heroes. End Of Days promised to restore an old school integral part to Action films: the weathered bad-ass.
The trailers promised one-liners, effects, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and even fun turns from great actors. In short, this was a film designed to please everyone. What the filmmakers didn’t seem to realize was that audiences had grown to be a more fickle bunch over the course of the 1990s. These audiences were younger and demanded a newer bunch of heroes they could relate to; the effects had become such a focal point that even a script such as this demanded huge, tentpole moments to wow viewers; and Arnold Schwarzenegger was looking to “branch out” and try more serious roles. As a result of that last bit, the script became less tongue in cheek over the course of the film’s production. So much so, in fact, that a few of the one-liners advertised in the trailers would end up on the cutting room floor before the movie’s release.
While many were disappointed in the end product, I think the film has actually aged rather well. The directing is still as poor as the pacing, and the “acting” is as unbalanced as the ending, but there are several great moments left intact. The haunting score is great, and combined with the film’s New York location and dark, gritty cinematography End Of Days has a terrific noir feel. And while the darkness is a bit much at times, I sort of liked this look. I only wish the editing wasn’t so apparent. The effects are great, especially the make-up and the explosions are assisted by some nice stuntwork. After having heart surgery, Arnold was clearly pulling a John Wayne and attempting a more physical performance to prove he was still quite well. This ends up selling the downtrodden character he plays as a reckless, devil-may-care individual.
And after Schwarzenegger had battled everything from wizards to space aliens to small armies, the minions of Satan and the big guy himself are really all that was left for the Austrian Oak to conquer. The film’s script is all over the place in terms of quality, but it does manage to pit Arnie’s image against its self-created stereotype. This incarnation of Arnold is far less concerned about his physique or hygiene. While remaining a smart-ass, he still manages to portray an emotional wreck. Where his iron will would usually pull him through each of his previous pictures, here Schwarzenegger suffers from a crisis of confidence and a complete lack of faith.
End Of Days features a great performance by Gabriel Byrne as Satan, a smooth-talking and cooler than shit, conniving master of evil. Were the movie a simple thriller, he easily could have made the whole thing worthwhile off his insidious presence. Fortunately, the movie gave us a bit more, allowing the flick to become part Action movie, part horror romp, and almost all fun. What other film can claim to feature the Terminator throwing the Devil out a highrise window?
[HOW BAD-ASS IS THE MAIN CHARACTER?]
Arnold Schwarzenegger is Jericho Cane
Jericho is the Schwarzenegger version of John McClane from Die Hard With A Vengeance (in fact he even “borrows” dialog from him), being a frequently drunk man on the edge of despair. While the character’s backstory is much darker than that of McClane, they are played with the same hung-over-but-cocksure manner. Despite contemplating suicide early on in the picture (a clear lift from Lethal Weapon), he is a man with a sense of duty and can rise to the occasion when called upon.
I think the filmmakers made a conscious decision to make him, despite his faithless ways and drinking problem, into some sort of Christ-figure. They give him the same initials, have him get tempted by Satan, and even go so far as to crucify him. His valiant fight against those performing the act, and also his subsequent survival, makes him way more of a bad-ass than Jesus could ever hope to be. Jericho doesn’t need to turn water into wine when he can turn beer, pepto bismol, old pizza and stale Chinese food into a breakfast smoothee. And check this shit out:
-Gets shot twice but continues in his pursuit of his attacker
-Drops from a helicopter to battle an assassin
-Verbally spars with Satan
-Throws Satan out of his apartment window
-Engages in fistfights and gun battles with Satan’s minions
-Faces off against Satan… with a grenade launcher!
So yeah, Cane’s a bad-ass. When confronted by a priest on the power of “faith”, he has this to say:
“Between your faith and my Glock 9mm, I’ll take my Glock.”
Because it takes BALLS to battle the Dark Lord with a fuckin’ gat! And Jericho has at least three.
[THE BODY COUNT: 52]
Owing to the film’s horror movie ancestry, there is occasionally large amounts of gore to be seen. People bleed out, are blown in half, and shot in dark alleyways. Others are blown up, stabbed, or get their necks broken. Arnold manages to kill 14 people, including CCH Pounder twice.
But, naturally, it’s Satan that manages the largest amount of kills. In his explosive entrance, an entire restaurant is destroyed and I counted about 28 people inside the place before it blew. Later on, he has sex with a couple women who seem to be melting into him, but I cannot confirm whether or not they die.
[MOST SATISFYING ASS-KICKING & DEATH]
Jericho vs. Old Lady
Like something out of a Sam Raimi film (in fact, he was approached to direct… what a missed opportunity!), this scene is as scary as it is funny. It pretty much happens out of nowhere, too, making it all the more jarring. Arnold having trouble with a little old lady? If this was the only awesome thing in the movie, it would be worth the price alone.
[DUDESWEAT AND MACHISMO]
One could assume the relationship between Kevin Pollock’s character and Jericho Cane goes beyond “just friends”, but the matter is never really delved into. Jericho shoots Pollock at point blank in the arm and not only does he just take it, but his lack of extreme emotional response hilariously suggests that this sort of thing may have occurred before. It’s clear Jericho was the butch in that relationship.
Despite being around the young and attainable Robin Tunney, Arnold never seems to have even a touch of sexual chemistry with the woman. In fact, the only heterosexual in the film is Satan, solidifying the movie’s stance that straight people are evil.
[EXPLOITATION AND MISOGYNY]
A woman and her daughter engage in a three-way with the Devil, melding into him while making out with each other. We get to see some titty, but the CGI melting process is what will catch your eye. That, and the fact that it’s pretty disgusting. But hey, he’s Satan.
If they aren’t seen as whores for Satan, women really aren’t seen at all. Robin Tunney gets the privilege of being this film’s damsel in distress. She cries, looks fearful, screams, and gets captured. In a movie where Satan’s would-be bride is a major plot-point, it’s almost appalling there is so little development.
[EPIC MOMENT AND BEST ONE-LINER]
The Devil visits Jericho and tempts him with the possibility of getting back his dead wife and child. In return, Satan only wants the location of the girl chosen to be his bride. When Jericho refuses, the Lord of Darkness calmly threatens him, telling him “See, now you’re upsetting me. You don’t want to see me upset. Believe me.”
What Arnold says next is one of the greatest lines of dialog ever spoken in Action cinema. The man who fought off the Predator, defeated two separate, superior Terminator models, hundreds of unnamed villains, and even powerful dark wizards now angrily retorts:
“Oh, you want to fuck with me!? You think you know bad, huh?”
“You’re a fucking choir boy compared to me! A CHOIR BOY!”
Allow me to reiterate—Schwarzenegger calls Satan—SATAN!—a “Fucking Choir Boy”. Wow. The epic moment occurs almost directly afterward. Satan dangles Schwarzenegger out of his apartment’s window, offering to save his life if he joins the dark side. Arnold yells, “Fuck you!” and throws the bastard out the window, sending him crashing down onto a car below. Fucking legendary.
[THE MORAL OF THE STORY]
It is in our darkest hour that we must hold onto our faith. And religious films about the end of the world can be as entertaining as Hell. Pun intended.
[THE SIGNS OF SCHWARZENEGGER: 4 outta 5]
[X] Performs A Ridiculous Feat(s) of Strength
[ ] Says, “I’ll be back.”
[X] Shows Off Buffness
[X] Unnecessarily Violent Opponent Dispatch
[X] Wields A Big Gun or Sword With One Arm
[THE CHECKLIST: 15 outta 25]
[X] Athlete(s) Turned “Actor”
[X] Clinging To The Outside Of A Moving Vehicle
[X] Crotch Attack
[X] Dialogue Telling Us How Bad-Ass The Main Character(s) Is/Are
[ ] Ending Featuring An Ambulance, A Blanket or A Towel
[X] Giant Explosion(s)
[X] Heavy Artillery
[ ] Improvised Weapon(s)
[X] Macho Mode(s) Of Transportation
[X] Main Character Sports Facial Accessory(s)
[ ] Manly Embrace(s)
[X] Notorious Stunt-Man Sighting [Sven-Ole Thorsen]
[ ] Passage(s) Of Time Via Montage
[ ] Politically Fueled Plot Point(s)
[X] Senseless Destruction Of Property
[X] Shoot Out(s) and/or Sword Fight(s)
[X] Slow-Motion Finishing Move(s)/Death(s)
[ ] Stupid Authoritative Figure(s)
[X] Substance Usage and/or Abuse
[X] Tis The Season
[ ] Torture Sequence(s)
[ ] Unnecessary Sequel
[ ] Vehicle Chase(s)
[ ] Vigilante Justice
Hey now, Jingle All The Way wasn’t THAT bad!
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