The Devil puts the Byrne on Schwarzenegger
With the new millennium just a few days away an ancient prophecy is fulfilled and the Devil (Gabriel Byrne - Little Women) returns to earth looking for a bride, a special woman born 20 years earlier. But when ex-cop Jericho Cane (Arnold Schwarzenegger - Batman & Robin) gets shot at whilst working as a security professional it leads him to this woman, Christine York (Robin Tunney - The Craft) and into a dangerous battle to protect her from not just the Devil but also a Religious Order who want her dead before the evil one has his wicked way with her and brings on the end of days.
"End of Days" starts like it was some "Da Vinci Code" style movie with religious crosses, burning scripture and bottles shattering on the floor all insinuating of some thriller surrounding religion and scriptures. It sort of continues as such as we are transported to the end of the 1970s when a prophecy is fulfilled that a child will be born. All of which is very intriguing delivering a sense of mystery as is the satanic style ritual featuring the baby and some snakes blood, although quite disturbing at the same time. But that's where any intelligence and mystery ends because we're then transported to the year 1999 and with the new millennium just a few days away we are introduced to Jericho Cane played by Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Now I am not saying that just because Schwarzenegger stars in "End of Days" that it becomes a dumb movie, but it ends up falling into almost a collection of cliches. We have Jericho a hard drinking cop style character emotionally scarred by something in his past, you have Kevin Pollack playing his side kick who delivers the predictable wise ass moments of comedy and you get plenty of action. That intelligence and mystery is for the most lost as we learn that The Devil himself has returned to earth, as prophesised, and is after a bride who just happens to be that baby born 20 years earlier. You can guess what follows which is Jericho learning about all this prophecy stuff and protecting the girl but not just from the Devil who is feeling rather horny but some religious nuts who want to kill her before all hell breaks out on earth.
The trouble is that in amongst all the action, which hits almost a comedy level as Jericho expectedly takes on the Devil; there is a reasonable storyline which could have been worked into a clever thriller that was embellished by the action. But nope you almost get the opposite a cliche riddled action movie which almost gets embellished by the thriller aspect. As such "End of Days" ends up going over the top in order to generate entertainment with huge action scenes and an ending which goes on and on and on. The storyline itself also goes over the top becoming more and more outrageous to match the action.
Despite this there are some good things to "End of Days" most notably Gabriel Byrne who oozes devilish charm as the devil or The man as he is known. In the scenes where we get the sexy Devil which include him bedding a mother and daughter at the same time in some form of mind and body bending way Gabriel Byrne is on fire with his smouldering looks and charisma. Yet blink your eyes and he delivers that menacing aspect that of someone uncontrollably evil but Byrne never over eggs it. He keeps it unsettlingly real almost combining the devilish charm of Jack Nicholson's Satan from "The Witches of Eastwick" with Al Pacino's more charismatic Devil in "The Devil's Advocate".
But although Gabriel Byrne delivers when it comes to his character the rest of the cast well they play to type. Schwarzenegger has certainly learned some skills since those early action days of "Commando" and his choice of movie is definitely better but he still struggles to deliver the emotional side of a character. You can't empathise with Jericho when he is struggling with his past because the emotion doesn't feel right, which is not helped by the occasional comedy dialogue which Schwarzenegger delivers, completely out of character for the type of person he is playing. So that means we get Schwarzenegger excelling when he gets those over the top, guns a blazing action scenes but struggles elsewhere.
Kevin Pollack fairs little better most notably because the storyline doesn't need a sidekick whose only purpose is to make lame wise cracks. They're funny moments but are not in keeping with what should be a clever thriller instead of an action movie. At least Robin Tunney comes across okay as Christine York, the innocent woman at the centre of all the trouble, but other than look sexy, act innocent and run has very little to do or say during the movie.
What this all boils down to is that "End of Days" starts by promising a clever thriller surrounding religious prophecies yet ends up becoming a run of the mill action thriller with far too much humour. It's a shame because the storyline had great potential to be a clever thriller and Gabriel Byrne is brilliant as Satan but the rest of the movie lets it down making it watch able and distinctly average.