It's The Arnold versus The Devil in a Texas Steel Cage Death Match! Firepower against the Power of Fire in a Fight to the Finish! Now on Pay Per View!
That -- or something close to it -- was probably the pitch for End of Days. Schwarzenegger is Jericho Kane (oooh, Biblical!), a suicidal ex-cop turned bodyguard who finds himself defending Christine (Robin Tunney) from Satan (Gabriel Byrne). Seems Christine was born under an extremely rare conjunction and thus is prime material for the Dark Angel to mate with and bring about the end the world with the coming of the millennium. Also in pursuit of Christine are a legion of devil worshipers (one of which is Udo Kier), and a radical sect called the Vatican Knights, who want to kill the girl before Satan can get jiggy with her.
The problems with End of Days are myriad. Besides the movie automatically dating itself -- obviously, the world did not end on Devember 31, 1999 -- there is the Lethal Weapon cop-who-has-lost-his-loved-ones-and-wants-to-die plot point, and sadly, Arnold is no Mel Gibson - his acting chops are simply not up to the Martin Riggs bit. He does begin to register in the realm of honest emotion in the film's last act, but that is over an hour and a half into the story. Satan is a maddingly inconsistent opponent, omnipotent one moment and incompetent the next... and he's also no smarter than the average Bond villain, as Kane is at his mercy at one point and the Dark One elects to spare his life, so he can "see what is to come." Worst of all, viewers will find themselves two and three steps ahead of the plot - there is nothing here you haven't seen before.
Basically, the same story was done better in Bram Stoker's Shadowbuilder, and done on a fraction of the budget.
As a film of such recent vintage, the transfer of End of Days is as good as it gets. Scenes illuminated only by flashlights or candles show no grain or artifacting, and the 5.1 soundscape is as bombastic as you would expect from a Schwarzenegger slugfest.
Well, let's see: we get the theatrical trailer, as well as the usual "Universal Showcase", which is simply a trailer for the WWII sub thriller U-571; The Biblical Book of Revelations reduced down to 16 text pages; Production Notes (in case you lost the pack-in booklet); short bios for each of the "name" actors and director Peter Hyams; "Spotlight on Location", a short and thoroughly worthless puff piece; and a "Soundtrack Presentation" (read: ad for the CD), featuring a "Never before seen Everlast music video" and "Rob Zombie's rarely seen music video". There is a reason for the scarcity of these videos: they aren't very good. (And this is coming from a Rob Zombie fan. At least the song isn't "Dragula," the unofficial metal song for cutting-edge soundtracks two years running!)
There are, of course, the beautifully done interactive menus, which manage to conjure up a sense of dread and creepiness which the movie never manages. The best (and most telling) extra is "The Devil's Playground", which is nine short, but nonetheless deep, mini-docs about the special effects setpieces in the movie. This, combined with Hyam's lucid, articulate commentary track, serve to hammer home that no amount of hard work, artistry or money can truly serve to elevate a derivative script above mediocrity.
Dr. Freex, 11/20/00