Heading into 2018, it’s imperative that we give thanks to our savior, Arnold Schwarzenegger, the last action hero himself, for saving us all from the devil on New Years Eve in 1999. Okay, so maybe that only happened in a film, but still, give thanks to that handsomely buff Austrian-American right now. I’ll wait. End of Days, otherwise known as Arnie v The Devil, follows Schwarzenegger as Jericho Cane, an NYPD detective who saves the world from Satan. While I’m not at all convinced that this isn’t a biopic about Schwarzenegger actually saving the world at the turn of the new millennium (or Willennium for those acquainted with “meh” hip-hop), I shall digress and talk about this “film.”
Released on November 24, 1999, to scathing reviews by critics, End of Days tells the story of the aforementioned Jericho Cane, a depressed man who blames God for the contract killings of his wife and young daughter. When Satan himself possesses an investment banker at a restaurant, Cane is hired to protect the banker along with his partner, Bobby Chicago, thus finding himself in a religious conflict while protecting an innocent young woman who is chosen by evil forces to conceive the Antichrist and unleash Hell on Earth. I’m going to be entirely honest, the plot of End of Days is all over the goddamn place. On paper, this film should be ridiculous and hilariously bad (the cops names are Jericho Cane and Bobby Chicago!), and perhaps critics in ’99 thought it was – but it’s not.
Directed by Peter Hyams (Timecop, Sudden Death) from a script by Andrew W. Marlowe (Air Force One, Hollow Man), End of Days stars Schwarzenegger as JC (I see what you did there, movie), Gabriel Byrne as the banker/Satan, Robin Tunney as Christine York, the object of Satan’s affection, and Kevin Pollack as Cane’s partner and BFF, Bobby Chicago. Why do I keep laughing at that name? From top to bottom, the cast is terrific. While aspects of the script are convoluted and absurd, each actor gives their all to the performances, lending a seriousness and credibility to a film that should have been a disaster. Schwarzenegger’s performance as Detective Cane is arguably his greatest work as an actor. Disheveled and visibly depressed, Arnold’s performance is mostly subtle throughout, though I wouldn’t complain if there were a few more outbursts like this one:
Epic and urgent in scope and tone, End of Days presents itself mostly as an action thriller, however, there are seriously effective elements of horror sprinkled throughout this underrated holiday flick. I was eight or nine years old when I watched this film on VHS for the first time, and it’s one of the last films to truly scare me as a kid. Three instances of the sheer terror the film bestowed upon me are Thomas Aquinas (Derrick O’Connor) being crucified to the ceiling by Satan and having Latin words and “Christ in New York” scratched into his skin (which absurdly prompts JC and Bobby Chicago to search for Christine York, ugh); the subway tunnel sequence in which Satan is chasing Cane and York; and the closing scenes in the church when Cane renews his faith in God and confronts the devil in his monstrous form. Spoiler alert: Schwarzenegger wins.
- Directors Sam Raimi and Guillermo del Toro were offered End of Days, but turned it down due to other projects.
- The role of Jericho Cane was written for Tom Cruise, but he chose to work on Magnolia, prompting Arnie to take on the role.
- Liv Tyler and Kate Winslet were both set to star as Christine York but eventually declined the roles.
- An alternative ending was filmed in which Cane returns to life after being impaled on the statue’s sword and leaves the church with Christine, but test audiences preferred the original version.
- The film’s soundtrack features songs by Guns N’ Roses, Korn, Everlast, and everyone’s favorite band, Limp Bizkit.
- End of Days was nominated for three Razzie Awards- Worst Actor for Arnie, Worst Supporting Actor for Byrne, and Worst Director for Hyams. It was pre-nominated for Worst Picture, but the nomination was withdrawn shortly before the ceremony.
Do you think End of Days is completely underrated like I do, or am I totally wrong to lend any credibility to this widely maligned piece of shit? Let us know in the comments! However it is that you feel, let’s hope Arnold Schwarzenegger will reign supreme for us once again as the new year approaches.