So here’s that cheery New Year’s movie I mentioned a few days ago. It is 1999’s End of Days starring none other than the Governator himself, Arnold Schwarzenegger. I don’t know where to even start with this one. It’s so spastic and scattershot it almost seems like the filmmakers forgot what kind of movie they were making between scenes. Its tone is relentlessly serious, and yet there are goofy lines and moments sprinkled throughout that make its seriousness just seem silly.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. End of Days begins in Rome in the year 1979, as a worried-looking priest in the Vatican watches a comet arch over the moon. Apparently this is meant to signal the birth of the one chosen to bear Satan’s child, sort of like the evil Virgin Mary. The Pope and most of the clergy want to find and protect the girl, while another group wants to kill her in order to stop Satan’s plans.
The scene shifts to New York, where a baby is born. The baby is taken away by a nurse to be cleaned up. The nurse, however, takes a creepy-looking elevator to the basement, where some creepy-looking folks find an ominous-looking mark on the child’s arm. They then cut open a snake with a knife and sprinkle its blood over the child. Ew. This apparently produces the desired result and the child is taken back to its mother, who names the girl Christine.
Fast forward twenty years to retired cop Jericho Caine (I LOVE THAT NAME), who now works private security. He’s been in a constant state of depression since his wife and daughter were killed by hitmen, and is shown contemplating suicide. He is on the security detail for a Wall Street banker, who is promptly attacked by a guy who turns out to be the priest who saw the comet at the beginning of the movie.
This plot summary is wearing me out, and you probably see where this is going anyway. Turns out the Wall Street banker Jericho was protecting has been possessed by Satan, so the would-be priest assassin was actually trying to do a public service, if you think about it. Baby Christine from the beginning is now grown up, and is plagued by all sorts of weird visions. Jericho and his pal Bobby Chicago (sounds like the lead singer from an 80’s metal band) track her down just as some dudes are about to murder her.
One of her would-be assassins tries to read her last rites before murdering her, which wouldn’t you know it gives Jericho enough time to rescue her. As you’ve no doubt realized by now, the guys who were trying to kill her work for those dudes from the Vatican, also from the beginning of the movie, who wanted to kill the woman who would bear Satan’s child.
“But wait a minute, Mr. Zombieroom,” you’re thinking, “how is this a New Year’s movie? What does any of this nonsense have to do with New Year’s?” Well, the key lies in the year. After the prologue, the bulk of the film takes place in the final days of the year 1999. A helpful and very knowledgeable priest (who is not an assassin) informs Jericho and Christine (and the viewer) that the Number of the Beast is not 666 but is actually 999, and that Satan must, to put this delicately, lie with the one chosen to bear his child before the year is over.
One wonders why Satan waited so long. Why not do the consummating in January or something? Satan is a procrastinator, I guess.
Anyway, long story short, Christine gets captured, Jericho rescues her, and they end up in a church as the ball is about to drop in Times Square. In an interesting twist, Jericho tosses his gun away and actually asks God to give him strength. This has to be the only time in any action movie where the protagonist has elected God over machine guns. Satan then possesses Jericho and tries to rape Christine, but Jericho fights his possession and impales himself on a sword held by a fallen statue right as the ball drops, killing himself and presumably sending Satan back to hell to mope around for another 999 years. Girl saved, world saved, end of movie.
All of this is EXTREMELY SERIOUS. I don’t think there’s one smile in the entire movie, unless it’s an evil one from Satan. But there are a couple of lines that are so goofy it’s hard to take any of it seriously. To illustrate this point, here are a couple of choice lines of dialogue from the film.
Bobby Chicago: “You’d be amazed what you’ll agree to when you’re on fire.”
Jericho: “Between your faith and my Glock 9mm, I’d take my Glock.”
Priest: “He was doing God’s work.” Jericho: “So God ordered a hit on an investment banker?”
Evil Vatican assassin dude: “We’re not afraid to die for our cause!” Jericho: “Good, because I am not afraid to kill you.”
Bobby Chicago: “You know, sometimes you border on competent.” Jericho: “I know, it’s scary isn’t it?”
And the hits just keep on coming:
Satan: “Now you’re making me angry. You don’t want to see me angry.” Jericho: “Oh, you think you’re bad, huh? You’re a f-cking choir boy compared to me! A CHOIR BOY!!” Satan: “You’re in touch with your anger. I admire that. Well, I don’t know about you, but I’m going to have a drink.”
And one of my all time favorite Ahnuld lines: “GET DOWN OR I’LL PUT YOU DOWN!!”
There is also a scene in which Satan pees on the sidewalk and sets it on fire, which causes a huge explosion, and what has to be one of the greatest scenes in cinematic history, wherein Jericho gets his ass kicked by an old lady. Yes, really. This happens. She beats the crap out of him. He does eventually smash her head through a glass table, but holy crap watching the Governator get beat up by a septuagenarian is priceless.
And at the grand climax of the movie, when Jericho sacrifices himself to save both the girl and the world, he seriously leaps like eight feet through the air to impale himself on this sword. If you’re gonna go out, you might as well go out like a boss, and maybe set a new long-jump distance record while you’re at it.
So yes, moments and lines such as these, while admittedly taken out of context here, make it almost impossible to take the movie seriously, and the relentlessly grim tone doesn’t help any. You can almost hear the director yelling in the background, “Hey come on, this is SERIOUS STUFF HERE, PEOPLE!!” but you can’t quite hear him over the sound of your own guffaws.
It’s kind of a shame too, since there are some decent ideas here, they just get lost under layers of kitsch. Some part of me likes the idea of a protagonist struggling with his faith, and it is an intriguing idea to have an action hero choose faith over firepower. But none of it really works in the movie. It’s noisy and overblown, and its relentless seriousness doesn’t jibe with its sillier moments, though there are a couple of good action scenes along the way. And I would totally watch an entire movie about priest-assassins.
On a mostly-unrelated side note, Wikipedia informs me that the soundtrack for the movie included tracks from Korn, Limp Bizkit, Guns N’ Roses, Eminem, and Rob Zombie, which has to be the only time in recorded history any of these people had any sort of connection to anything that even remotely involved the Pope.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a movie to watch.