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The UnPopular Opinion: End of Days

07.02.2014

THE UNPOPULAR OPINION is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATHED. We're hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Enjoy!

****SOME SPOILERS ENSUE****

Arnold Schwarzenegger movies are practically a genre unto themselves. For the most part, they are loud, nonsensical, cliche, derivative, and a hell of a lot of fun. What drives people to see Schwarzenegger on the big screen is the same thing that makes us watch movies like THE EXPENDABLES, THE TRANSPORTER, or even the awful recent DIE HARD sequels. We are red-blooded Americans and we like to see shit blow up. Hell, even non-Americans like a good orgy of explosions and violence now and then. But, even within the oeuvre of Arnold Schwarzenegger films there are some stinkers. One often maligned is END OF DAYS, a personal favorite of mine.

If END OF DAYS is to be commended for anything, it is the sheer darkness of the movie. Schwarzenegger films have a self-destructive streak in them, but END OF DAYS takes the levity and humor that most of them possess and takes it to an incredibly negative place. Peter Hyams' film is at once a horror movie, an action blockbuster, a creature feature, and a paranoid meditation on the end of the 20th Century. Combine that with Arnold's ultimate opponent, Satan himself, and you have a movie that is critic-proof. Say what you will about this movie and you will then have to take a step back and tell yourself that you are actually criticizing an Arnold Schwarzenegger film for not being an original and artistic triumph. Really? When you saw it was Schwarzenegger vs The Devil you were expecting more?

The Devil f*cked with my Glock!

END OF DAYS was released a month before the supposed computer apocalypse known as Y2K was about to drive everyone back into the stone age. But, like a lot of paranoid theories, nothing happened. Instead, we all embraced the 21st Century and didn't look back. As part of the hysteria, a lot of apocalyptic films came out with the concept of Satan and his demon hordes destroying society. But, where as most films like THE EXORCIST, THE OMEN, STIGMATA, and this summer's DELIVER US FROM EVIL rely on the clergy to try and save us, END OF DAYS puts the burden on the shoulders of Arnold Schwarzenegger's badassly named Jericho Cane. But this is not the typical Arnold we see as Cane is a broken man following the death of his wife and child. Much like how filmmakers gave Pierce Brosnan's James Bond a hurt shoulder in THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH, providing an Arnold Schwarzenegger hero with a emotional injury is something we had not seen much of from the actor. It also perfectly played into the redemption his character needs to make the ending of the film work.

Make no mistake: END OF DAYS is by the numbers filmmaking. It is every Satanic horror movie wrapped into every Schwarzenegger movie, but it is still an exciting ride. It is made all the better by Gabriel Byrne delivering one of his best performances. Byrne, who is a phenomenally talented actor who has shown greatness in films like THE USUAL SUSPECTS, MILLER'S CROSSING, and the HBO series IN TREATMENT, chews the scenery as a Satan with a diabolical sense of humor and a very nice suit. His introduction moment that involves one explosive kiss finishes, you realize this take on Lucifer is one that does not f*ck around, but will do it with a smile on his face. If anything, the Satan character was under-used in END OF DAYS, but we do need to make him someone seemingly undefeatable while not making it impossible for our hero to save the world.

You want to stick there where, Father?

The two other factors needed for any Arnold Schwarzenegger movie and any exorcism film are a goofy sidekick and a damsel in distress. Here, we get Kevin Pollak as Bobby Chicago, Cane's buddy, and Robin Tunney as the women destined to father the Antichrist. Pollak is his usual self here in a role that could have really been played by anyone. But, I kind of like Pollak's smart ass attitude and he seems to be playing off of his USUAL SUSPECTS character here which makes the kind-of reunion with Gabriel Byrne a little cooler. Tunney was on the cusp of a big screen career and her role in END OF DAYS could have taken her there, but this movie really is the Schwarzenegger Show. Everyone else in the cast is serviceable but Arnold is the star.

What END OF DAYS lacks in originality it makes up for in atmospherics. There is a huge scale to this film that rivals Schwarzenegger's biggest movies, but it also feels very claustrophobic. Peter Hyams also directed the monster movie THE RELIC which felt very similar. Throughout this movie, you can feel an ominous tone of dread and horror while also sensing the magnitude of the events unfolding on the screen. Visually, Hyams (who served as his own cinematographer) is looking to evoke the visual feel of movies like THE EXORCIST blended with David Fincher's SEVEN. The results are very dark but also perfectly suited to the subject matter.

Bet you wish you got to the choppa now, don't you?

The creature design for Satan outside of a human host is pretty spectacular if not nearly on screen long enough to make it feel like a threat. You cannot help but feel the missed opportunities with END OF DAYS had it been given enough time to develop into a less dated film. Like 2012, END OF DAYS has relegated itself to being a curiosity from the turn of the century when it could have been a launching pad for a franchise about an ex-cop/demon hunter out to save the world. END OF DAYS could have been CONSTANTINE crossed with COMMANDO. What we do have is still a fun Schwarzenegger movie, but oh what could have been!

When the unfortunate day comes that Arnold Schwarzenegger goes the direction of Jericho Cane (hopefully in a blaze of glory), we can look back on his career with fondness, finding a huge number of movies that made us thankful for the Austrian bodybuilder making the career change to movie star. END OF DAYS deserves to be ranked up there with his more unique film experiments, one that actually has a soul rather than just a body count.

Oh, and if you have any suggestions for The UnPopular Opinion I’m always happy to hear them. You can send along an email to alexmaidy@joblo.com, spell it out below, slap it up on my wall in Movie Fan Central, or send me a private message via Movie Fan Central. Provide me with as many movie suggestions as you like, with any reasoning you'd care to share, and if I agree then you may one day see it featured in this very column!
Source: JoBlo.com

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