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Movies Mike Oliveri Review by
Mike Oliveri
End of Days
END OF DAYS - 1999
Universal Pictures
Rated: USA: R

I have witnessed the END OF DAYS, and it did rock . . .
. . . mostly.

Writer Andrew W. Marlowe (THE HOLLOW MAN) and director Peter Hyams (THE RELIC) have put together a twist on the Apocalypse. Specifically, the plot is based on Revelations 20:7, which reads

"When the thousand years are ended, Satan will be released from his prison."

The complete Biblical version talks about Satan's deceit and the raising of armies, but Marlowe has taken a few liberties. Instead, Satan comes looking for a woman, his "chosen one", to conceive a child. If successful, he becomes the ruler of the world.

In a way, the plot is only half-baked. We are given the impression that Satan succeeds the moment he makes love to the chosen woman, yet it's unclear if the child, who would by default be the Antichrist, would have any role in the Apocalypse. I suppose Satan could have the power to instantly birth this Antichrist, but Marlowe leaves this as a loose end.

The film opens twenty years in the past, when the chosen one is born. The Vatican sets out to find the child, but the Satan-worshipers get to her first. A nurse takes the child down to the basement, where another doctor performs a Satanic baptism on the child. How they knew the child would be born to that mother is never specified.

Back to the present, Satan arrives and takes the body of a Wall Street investor, played by Gabriel Byrne (STIGMATA). Marlowe has some fun with Old Nick for awhile, sending him around to wreak havoc and kill people while he looks for his chosen woman. Byrne plays the part very well, injecting the cold, calculating personality and the wry, dark humor into the role with a certain amount of style. I found him to be the best Lucifer since Viggo Mortensen in THE PROPHECY.

Enter Jericho Cane (Arnold Schwarzenegger: TERMINATOR movies, TOTAL RECALL, THE 6th DAY), a bodyguard for an independent security firm hired to protect the unnamed Wall Street investor-cum-Lord of the Flies. When a crazy priest tries to kill the man, Cane and his partner, Chicago (Kevin Pollak: THE USUAL SUSPECTS), find themselves embroiled in a complex battle between the church and a cult of Satan-worshipers.

Ultimately, their investigation leads them to the chosen woman, Christine York (Robin Tunney: SUPERNOVA). The only problem is that the nurse that had her baptized is now her stepmother and the doctor that performed the baptism (Udo Kier: BLADE, MEGIDDO: THE OMEGA CODE 2, FEAR DOT COM) is the family's physician, and they've been waiting for Satan's arrival. Needless to say, they don't react kindly to Cane's interference.

There are three factions at work in the film, breaking down into the good, the bad, and the evil (and you thought I was going to say ugly, didn't you?). The good guys are the main church, which plans to rely on faith in God to get them through these dark times. Cane's contact with these guys is through a priest in a New York church, played by Rod Steiger (THE KINDRED, MARS ATTACKS!). He fills in much of the Biblical information for our heroes, and instructs them that it is faith that will save the world.

Then there are the bad guys, a splinter group of the church. They are the remainder of an ancient order of Knights of the Vatican, and they are the ones that seek to kill the chosen woman to prevent the birth of the Antichrist.

And finally we have the evil, the Satan worshipers who we discover are actually all around us. Some have positions of power, such as the doctor mentioned above, to help prepare for the coming of their lord. Unfortunately, near the end of the film, they become cliches at best, hanging out in brown robes to watch Lucifer do the nasty with his bride.

Another notable appearance is by CCH Pounder (DEMON KNIGHT, FACE/OFF). Pounder has a small but important role as a police detective who is also investigating the priest that attempted to kill Satan. Her character was also Cane's boss while he was a police officer.

!!!UNFAIR RACIAL CLICHÉ ALERT!!!:
While there is only one black actor in this movie, she is still killed. Though this movie takes place in New York City, apparently the place is crawling only with white folks - with the exception of one lone black woman who also happens to be evil. This is hardly a spoiler since this occurs in every single SF/Horror movie that Arnold has ever made. It would be a surprise if the only black person in the whole picture was NOT bad and / or a dead victim. She gets slaughtered in the time honored Hollywood Horror movie cliche of "Kill The Minorities!" Don't take my word for it - read the UNFAIR RACIAL CLICHÉ ALERT.

For the most part, the movie is very well-written and has a lot of action. The best scene in the film is when Satan tries to tempt Cane to his side, using his loss of faith and the murders of his wife and child against him. Great acting by both Byrne and Schwarzenegger, especially the latter who, playing a suicidal ex-cop, shows us he can do at least a little more acting than simply beating people up and tossing out one-liners.

An interesting tidbit is the name of the assassin priest from the beginning: Thomas Aquinas. Saint Thomas Aquinas was a Christian philosopher who lived in the Thirteenth Century. Perhaps the most notable of his writings were his five arguments for the existence of God, which he posed from a logical point of view rather than one of faith. Apparently, this has no bearing on the storyline. The characters never make the connection, and Steiger's priest character even refers to the assassin as Thomas. It leads me to wonder if Marlowe was simply dropping the name or if he was trying to imply some greater calling to the assassin's religious fervor.

The Christian/Occult angle is played to the hilt, and at times the filmmakers push their luck. Fortunately it doesn't ruin the enjoyability of the film. The plot moves along at a good clip, and through most of the beginning manages to be realistic if a bit too easy. There are a few snags as the climax approaches, mostly dealing with typical Hollywood lapses in logic, but the ending itself is satisfying and believable.

I'm told the real church actually coerced the film studio to change the ending from the originally-planned Arnold-blows-it-all-up ending, and in this case I think it was a good move. The new ending plays off Cane's struggle with his faith, which is prevalent through much of the film, and is a lot more creative.

In all, an enjoyable and mostly original movie with a few small flaws. I give it four shriek girls.

Shriek GirlsShriek GirlsShriek GirlsShriek Girls
This review copyright 1999 E.C.McMullen Jr.

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