Weekly Wire
Weekly Alibi The Devil You Say!

By Devin D. O'Leary

DECEMBER 7, 1999:  It's been a decade or two since the heyday of apocalyptic entertainment. The 1970s gave us such Bible-thumping thrillers as The Late Great Planet Earth, The Exorcist and a slew of Omen movies. Since then, we've had ... well, The Seventh Sign with Demi Moore. Perhaps it's just a matter of atmosphere. Living in the '70s you felt like the end was nigh -- Vietnam, the Gas Crisis, the Recession, the Iran Hostage Crisis, The Village People. Living in the '90s -- despite all this Y2K blah blah blah -- it's hard to work up much millennial fever. It just doesn't feel like the world's ready to come to a grinding halt. The economy is booming, unemployment is at an all-time low, and Sony Playstations are plentiful. Sure, there are a few nutjobs out there preparing for The Rapture or total governmental collapse come Jan. 2 -- but the vast majority of people are just preparing for a massive hangover.

It's a little surprising, though, that no one in Hollywood has bothered to cook up much in the way of end-of-the-world propaganda. Madison Avenue has certainly tried its best to work us into a frenzy of doom and gloom. It seems like there isn't a product on the market or a commercial on TV that hasn't been slapped with some Y2K connection or another. Apparently, we're expected to say "Yes-2-Kia" and then panic over the possibility that there might be a McDonald's french fry shortage at midnight on New Year's Eve. But Hollywood, for the most part, has ignored the impending end-of-the-world scenario. Perhaps the movie studios have simply figured out that nobody will give a damn about such things come Jan. 2, 2000. That makes for a pretty short shelf-life on home video.

In fact, the only major theatrical film actively exploiting the end-of-the-millennium/end-of-the-world thing is Arnold Schwarzenegger's new action flick End of Days. In it, Arnie plays Jericho (random Biblical name alert!), an ex-cop with a background cribbed straight out of the Standard Hollywood Background file. See, his wife and daughter were killed by evil criminals that he testified against; now he's an alcoholic private detective racked with cinematic guilt. When a crazy priest named Thomas Aquinas (random Biblical name alert!) tries to kill one of his clients, though, old Jerry finds himself wrapped up in a conspiracy of -- dare we say it? -- Biblical proportions.

Seems that Satan himself (Gabriel -- random Biblical name alert! -- Byrne) has returned to Earth in hopes of boinking his "chosen bride" (cute but colorless Robin Tunney) before midnight, Dec. 31, 1999. Said boinking will somehow ensure Satan's rule over Earth for the next thousand years. Of course, it's up to our beefy hero to protect the innocent young gal from the unstoppable force of evil, thereby preventing the end of the world. Put Edward Furlong in the role of the innocent young girl and Robert Patrick in the role of the unstoppable force of evil and you've got a beautiful carbon copy of Terminator 2: Judgment Day.

Although commercials are billing this as a creepy horror flick (even downplaying the fact that Arnie stars in it), End of Days is a classic Schwarzenegger shoot-and-quip through and through. End of Days doesn't dwell much on the expected Satanic stuff and ignores all the attendant mystical mumbo jumbo. Instead of demons, locust plagues, bleeding walls -- all that supernatural jazz -- we've got fistfights, gun battles and plenty of loud propane cloud explosions. This is the end of the world by way of generic Hollywood action movie. End of Days is the kind of film that expects audiences to believe The Big Red Source of All Evil can be fought off with a few well-placed explosive-tipped bullets. Thank God for Glock, eh?

End of Days is directed by Peter ("I never met a cliché I didn't like") Hyams. Hyams is the guy they bring in when the real director quits (which was, in fact, the case with this movie). His résumé (including Outland, 2010, Timecop, Sudden Death and The Relic) proves that he isn't inept -- merely boring. Hyams is the very definition of the word "hack," and with End of Days he contributes his usual "Don't blame me, I'm just the director" level of anonymous competency.

Anyone expecting Exorcist-style chills here will be sorely disappointed. Frightening the audience seems to be the furthest thing from anyone's mind. The best that Hyams and the film's underachieving script can muster is the old Patented Hollywood Cat Scare (in which someone searching a dark house opens a door/cabinet/curtain and is suddenly confronted with a random screeching cat!). For the most part, we're left with a paint-by-numbers action flick in which Arnie shoots guns, hurls grenades and gets smacked around with baseball bats by Satan's minions. Ultimately, the only real tension in End of Days comes from guessing how many minutes it will take until Arnie hurls the inevitable catchphrase "Go to Hell!" at the Devil.

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