End of Days
by Del Harvey
Should be the End of Arnold’s Career. In the words of Bart Simpson: “Craptacular!”
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Okay. This is the straw that broke the camel’s back. We’ve been fed so much millennium and religious-end-of-the-world crap this past year or so that it’s ridiculous. No, it’s ludicrous. But not as ludicrous as asking us to watch Arnold act, fer chrissakes! What is this world coming to?!?!
Okay, Hollywood, here’s the message: We don’t want to see an acting Arnold, we want to see an action Arnold. Get the difference? We’ll repeat this message a couple of times throughout just to be sure.
So, I’m watching the credits when the name Peter Hyams appears, first as Director of Photography, then as Director. Okay. He’s done some crap: Sudden Death, The Presidio, 2010. But he’s made a couple of decent action films, too: The Relic, Timecop. Okay, this might work. I mean, Hollywood can’t be desperate, can they? Forget I asked.
Here’s the premise: Satan’s got a slim window of opportunity to take control of the world away from God and Goodness. What? You mean he doesn’t have control now? Anyway, Satan has to impregnate a twenty-something year old girl who was born with the ‘mark of the Devil’ on her. He has to ‘do’ her between 11:00p.m. and Midnight on New Year’s Eve. Wait a second! This sounds like a sailor on shore leave! At this point we’re into some Rosemary’s Baby trip, as directed by the Burt Reynolds character in Boogie Nights.
Turns out the Catholic church and the Pope know all about this little scheme. Matter of fact, our calendar is based upon this date in history, and they just counted backwards 2,000 years to start the darned thing. (Why does this sound like complete BS?) But the church has only one bit of advice to defend ourselves against Satan: “Keep the faith, baby.” Unfortunately, neither Jim Brown nor Fred Williamson are on hand to give this little Devil the whippin’ he so richly deserves.
Satan comes to Earth and takes control of Gabriel Byrne’s body. Don’t get me wrong—I like Byrne. But for a jerk-jive film like this they should have gone way over the top and thrown someone like Christopher Walken or Samuel L. Jackson in there to give us some real belly laughs. Arnold is a professional security/bodyguard working for a high tech firm that’s been hired to protect Byrne from whomever may want to harm him. In this instance it’s the Knights of The Cross or some such hokum, who also knew about this 2,000-year countdown and have been preparing for this very moment. Fat lot of good it does them, because Satan-Byrne dispatches them before they have much of a chance to say, “Bless me, Father, for I am dogmeat.”
Arnold’s character is given a moral dilemma in the form of depression and guilt for not being there when some thugs broke into his house and killed his wife and daughter. He’s got a deathwish. The first time we see him he’s trying to give head to a 9mm Glock. Just-in-time enters comic sidekick Kevin Pollack with a shot of espresso. Arnold immediately tosses this into his blender, along with some Pepto, leftover Chinese that’s been sitting on the counter for who knows how long, a banana (peeled), and a slice of pizza he finds on the floor. His punchline, “They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” It doesn’t get any better from there on, kiddies.
But this is Arnold; this is stuff we can accept from the big slob. He’s fine with a short phrase or a punchline, but don’t let him speechify!
The story goes along fine for awhile, insofar as we’re given a semi-coherent plot line and most of it hangs together. Then, somewhere after the second half, the dog must have eaten the rest of the script. They lost it. The writers forgot to finish it. Whatever lame-ass excuse they may have, it just ain’t there. Instead what we’re given is some scenes look like they’re borrowed from bad 70s horror films. Which wouldn’t be so bad if they gave Arnold a heavy-duty action sequence and a special potion or a special Sword of God or The Cross of Jerusalem to fight off Satan. Or maybe if they just came out and said, “Hey, all we’ve got to do is keep Satan from boinking this girl until midnight, then his plan’s screwed and so is he!!!” But they don’t even bother to do that!
Okay, sportsfans, repeat after me: We don’t want to see an acting Arnold, we want to see an action Arnold.
Arnold does NOT throw down his weapon. He does not reach down inside himself to find that sensitive spot from which to emote. Arnold does not act.
Arnold hits things. He shouts at things. He shoots things. Arnold walks through walls. Arnold should have been doin’ the Devil some hurtin’ like he’s never been hurt before. That’s why he’s Arnold.
Did the collective filmmakers fall into a trance and wake up with the misguided belief that Arnold could save the film with his bravura acting skills? Are these people that dense?
And here I will repeat myself, because this bears repeating: one hopes this will be the last of these millennium / end-of-the-world movies—enough is enough. That horse is so dead the flies won’t even go near it.
End Of Days should officially be the final nail in Arnold’s career. Now he can join the ranks of other former action stars who have moved into the sub-grade ‘B’ category, spewing out endless knock-offs of their hits in such fine direct-to-video titles as “Highlander VIII” and “Ninja Hookers #52.”
If you want to see a good action film, go see The World Is Not Enough. If you want to see horror, see Pokemon, or rent the original The Haunting. But whatever you do, don’t see this film. Get some teeth pulled instead. You’ll have a better time, and you really won’t feel all that nauseous afterward.
Del Harvey is the founder of Film Monthly. He lives in Chicago and is a devout Bears fan, and therefore deserving of our sympathy.
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