End of Days marks a return of Arnold Schwarzenegger to the big screen, after a fairly conspicuous absence due to a heart surgery. This time he is up against the devil itself and in the end, it's not guns and bullets that gain him victory (though they do get him close to it).
To paraphrase Fox Mulder from The X Files, god works in mysterious ways, but it sure seems to have a tendency to pick psychos to do its job. Or in this case, the choice is an alcoholic former-police-officer-turned-bodyguard, Jericho Cane (Schwarzenegger). And he is pitted against Satan (Gabriel Byrne) who seeks to impregnate a woman every 1000 years between the hours of 11 and 12p (Eastern) as we look forward to the year 2000 (not begin a new millennium). The woman who is the object of his desire is Christine York (Robin Tunney) and before Satan can get to her, she runs into Jericho who decides to become her (unpaid) bodyguard. Of course, if Jericho isn't able to stop Satan before the ball drops in Times Square, existence as we know it will be over.
I laud the film makers' attempt at character development. However, given that it's Schwarzenegger who is playing the lead role, it all amounts to naught. Once in a while, I could see flashes of emotion but the voice and the acting I thought was well, typically Schwarzenegger-ish. Now I really don't expect there to be a lot of passion in the characters in a film like End of Days, but yet the set up is way too excessive for the kind of talent we're dealing with here. Even Gabriel Byrne, who by far puts in the best performance, doesn't quite make for a threatening or convincing devil.
There are some amusing moments in the film, whether they're intentional or not is anyone's guess: the origin of 666, Satan's mark, is explained as the year in which Satan tries to score (666 reverse == 999); the use of a precise time is explained as an elaborate calculation by ancient monks which led to our calendar---fine, but Eastern time? Surely they could've found a way to make the ball drop in Rome where at least the time zone would've made things consistent.
Ah, the action. I forgot about that for a moment, but that's what keeps End of Days going. The chases (Cane dangling from an helicopter chasing a priest), the explosions (caused by Satan's urine (how the hell did they dream up that one?)), and the showdown (mostly involving a large subway wreck) were exciting enough to keep me interested. End of Days is a fairly decent thriller with a non-contrived ending. It's worth the matinee fare if you get a chance to see it on the big screen, but otherwise I'd skip it.