The millennium was supposed to be apocalyptic, whatever method you prophesied the end of days happening it was there was a good chance it was scheduled right before Y2K, as such, apprehension was high that the upcoming new year would be humanity’s last. In the dwindling days of 1999, a film married the apocalyptic fervour of the end of the millennium with Arnold Schwarzenegger’s brand action and effects and added a nice dose of fear for good measure, in End of Days.
20 years ago, a baby was born that was destined to be the mother of the child of Satan, after some clashes with insiders in the Catholic Church, she was allowed to live. We jump forward to depressed widowed former cop, now bodyguard Jericho Cane, who gets shot at trying to apprehend an attempted assassin. While chasing him, the assailant gives a warning before being gunned down by Cane. Considering this hitman was a priest who cut out his tongue, something unholy is taking place. This mystery takes Cane on a dark road to track down and to protect that innocent child, now practically grown up, obvious to her fate and save the world before the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve.
End of Days is a profoundly darker film for Arnie to take on, much in the style of other thrillers of the time, and Arnie’s brand of action is a surprising fit to the shadier subject material. Especially the scenes where the action takes the audience underground in the depths of New York. A place that is depicted as so dingy, that it would not look out of place in David Fincher’s Se7en. Though these are beautifully counterbalanced with shots of the city at Xmas time, with snow-filled streets adding an appropriate festive feeling, and magnificent estates in the rich part of town add a lot to differentiate the action. The themes of religion and the devil are unsurprisingly common in End of Days and their inclusion allows for some more highbrow discussion and persuasion to the proceedings. The devil himself is more than adept at convincing people to do his bidding, allows some more cerebral touches to the typical villainous masterminds that usually oppose Arnold.
Joining The Guvernator is an intriguing collection of cast mates. Robin Tunney is the apparent mother of Satan’s child, and she is more than skilled at depicting a character thrown into extraordinary circumstances. In his surprisingly subdued performance as the devil, Gabriel Byrne is an impressive antagonist who can softly bend the ear and convince mortals to swear fealty for their darkest desires. Cane is accompanied by comic legend Kevin Pollak is (literally) on fire as Jericho’s partner. If that not enough the soundtrack is also a bastion of great tracks, from the Prodigy, Rob Zombie, and other anointed saints of the alternative rock genre. Their inclusion feeling especially appropriate considering what is already included in End of Days.
If you are a devotee of 90s action-thrillers, then End of Days is one to check out, with its revelatory backdrop adding spice to some well-worn conventions. Its 2 hours takes the viewer on a tour of darkness down in the frosted New York streets and into the depths of the soul. But the righteous action stops End of Days from being too morose and remain broadly enjoyable. As a seasonal treat, soul-searching with End of Days might be a great way to send off this peculiar year.
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