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  End of Days A Devil Of A Time
Year: 1999
Director: Peter Hyams
Stars: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Gabriel Byrne, Robin Tunney, Kevin Pollak, CCH Pounder, Derrick O'Connor, David Weisenberg, Rainer Judd, Miriam Margolyes, Udo Kier, Victor Varnado, Michael O'Hagan, Mark Margolis, Jack Shearer, Rod Steiger, Eve Sigall
Genre: Horror, ActionBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 3 votes)
Review: Twenty years ago, the highest echelons of the Catholic Church held a meeting to decide what to do about the upcoming birth of a child who was destined to bear the son of Satan when she grew up, and opinions were divided over whether they should execute the infant before the turn of the millennium, or find another way to combat the forces of darkness. Meanwhile, the baby had already been marked by a brief ceremony which promised her to the Devil, and so the years passed without her being aware of her true destiny...

There's only one hope for the world now, and that's the getting to be over the hill Arnold Schwarzenegger, or rather he was the hope as this was one of the few films to be released in the year 1999 that concerned itself with the millennium. As a cash-in, it was not a successful one, taking the essential plot of The Omen and giving it the action movie treatment, not something that caught the imagination at the time, especially as the two styles - horror and explosions - were none too well married here. It could be the problem was that where The Omen became a huge hit thanks to its grave-faced depiction of apocalyptic religion and novelty deaths, here there was not much conviction.

Sure, there was a bunch of pseudo-religious claptrap that writer Andrew W. Marlowe dressed up his story in, but that seventies chiller was far more inventive; here Satan seemed intent on simply blowing shit up for a couple of hours which was nothing if not monotonous. In the role of Beelzebub was Gabriel Byrne, putting in a sly performance that didn't quite fly given the leaden dialogue that the characters spouted: here was a film that desperately needed a sense of humour, and Kevin Pollak's snarky comments didn't quite cut the mustard. He played Schwarzenegger's sidekick, as they were both here as cops, with Arnold's unlikely-named Jericho Cane suicidal after the death of his family at the hands of gangsters.

If Jericho Cane sounds like something out of a comic book, then there's a definite feel of that kind of adaptation here, one of those efforts which emphasised the lurid and kinetic over the cerebral, which in the right hands can be very entertaining. Not so here, as if director Peter Hyams and his cast thought they really were depicting the actual end of days as prophesised vaguely in biblical The Book of Revelation, and felt as if they should not mess around with such portentous material. But then, the millennium really occurred on January the 1st, 2001, so you would be advised to take their po-faced machinations with a pinch of salt, if not a Dennis Wheatley-style salt circle.

Schwarzenegger was getting a bit long in the tooth to romance his leading lady, so in this case the potential victim Christine (do you see?) is simply present to be protected from Byrne's devil at all costs. She doesn't know what has been planned for her, and Robin Tunney in the role was not called to do much more than look anguished and run around in her bare feet for some reason. Nevertheless, for such a heavy-hearted movie there were the odd items of eccentricity, such as when Arnold gets into a fight with Miriam Margolyes of all people, as she plays the wicked stepmother who has supernatural strength. The always welcome Udo Kier showed up as well, but was thrown away in a minion capacity as this Satan had a dispiriting habit of bumping off his underlings - is that any way to run a railroad? As it stood, End of Days was a relic of pre-millennial tension, but as that kind of doomladen mood never went away, maybe this was more forward-looking than redundant, as it tends to appear now. Music by John Debney.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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Peter Hyams  (1943 - )

American director, writer and cinematographer, mostly of standard genre movies: action, sci-fi, thriller, etc. After a career as a TV newsman (he was a Vietnam War reporter) he moved into films, writing and producing T.R. Baskin. A couple of TV movies later, on the big screen he made Busting, Capricorn One, Hanover Street, Outland, 2010, The Presidio, a remake of Narrow Margin, Stay Tuned, Timecop, Sudden Death, The Relic, End of Days, The Musketeer and A Sound of Thunder.

 
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