Here's another dead-end millennium movie
By MIKE McMORROW
Scene Movie Critic
Amidst all the media and cultural hype surrounding the entrance to the new millennium, it is not a surprise to see a slew of apocalyptic, religiously-charged movies that deal with "the end of the world."
One might hope, however, that filmmakers would take advantage of such an interest and create something that is both interesting and intelligent. Alas, put all hopes aside, because if Schwartzenegger's newest extravaganza, "End of Days," is representative of the way Hollywood is going to treat the coming of 2000, then the thinking public is going to feel cheated.
The film opens with the birth of a child who has been "chosen" to be the mother of the anti-Christ. If she is impregnated between the hours of 11 p.m. and midnight on Dec. 31, 1999, she will give birth to that which will "bring about the end of the world." Satan must discover her, so the forces of darkness embody themselves in human form, taking the form of the Man, played by Gabriel Byrne.
However, along the way Byrne has to face Arnold, who plays a security worker named Jericho who has a drinking problem. He takes it upon himself to protect the girl (named Christine, played by Robin Tunney), after an encounter with Thomas Aquinas — a former Vatican priest who understands what's about to go down on New Year's Eve.
Viewers also get a glimpse of the Vatican's response and handling of the situation (which they understand through the book of Revelation, which is amusingly also Jericho's method of figuring out what's going on). One cardinal wants to kill the girl, but the pope insists that they simply "must have faith."
Jericho doesn't like this. He had lost his faith when his wife and daughter were murdered a couple of years prior to his meeting Satan. As a result, he insists on taking the militant route to protecting Christine, even though the Man is completely invulnerable to any physical harm. And even though Jericho acknowledges the Man as being Satan, he still refuses to have any faith in God.
Priests are introduced along the way, as are the parents of Christine and others who are involved one way or another. the Man does some bombing along the way, scarring people in Manhattan. And of course, there is even a scene in which one woman is diagnosed to being a stigmatic. ("Stigmata," another member of the millennium-movie club, looks like a cinematic wonder compared to this.)
Viewers also get a bonus dose of Kevin Pollack, who assists Jericho with his attempts to fight off the Man.
Byrne has fun with the role (although not as much fun as Pacino had in when it was his turn to play Satan in "Devil's Advocate"). He enjoys his opportunities to sadistically grin at his lowly human targets. He plays the part with merciless, laconic wit, and it is the best part of the film.
Arnold, however, is anything but witty, and is too dressed up in his melodramatic, all-too-serious mode of thinking that he is at all credible as a dramatic actor.
What "End of Days" is, then, is a movie that drags and has nothing intelligent to say about its subject. It wouldn't be as bad if, instead aiming for substantive tension and drama, the film aimed more at being witty and showcased its actors' talent for being in on the joke. Only Byrne touches on this, and even he hits the right notes fleetingly.
Not to mention logic — "End of Days" may well want to seem knowledgeable and logical and insightful, but it is purely on the surface, and it quickly loses this image.
Absurdities abound. One priest actually points out that "666" turned upside-down is "999"! In addition, the dialogue is outlandishly bad, even for a movie that has to strive to keep viewers interested even with its explosions, weaponry and Arnold.
In a film like this, it is the highest praise to say filmmakers at least had some understanding and consequent wits about what they were doing. It seems probable even the makers of "End of Days" would understand the criticisms made against it.
1 1/2 shamrocks out of 5
All Scene Stories for Thursday, December 2, 1999