On paper, the concept of Schwarzenegger vs. Satan sounds like it has the potential to be either a totally kick ass action flick or a complete stinker. With “End of Days” we get something in the middle, in other words its basically an average thriller. It’s certainly light years ahead of Arnie’s last film “Batman & Robin” but way behind his early 90’s flicks. Actually its about the same level as his 1996 flick “Eraser”, though Arnie gets do a little more range than normal.
In fact for a Schwarzenegger film there’s about twice as much dialogue as normal making this more of a dramatic thriller with action elements rather than a full blown Arnie gun-blasting movie. Does it work though? Hard-core action fans may be a little disappointed, but the extra time does allow us to see Arnie play a slightly more complex hero than usual. The man even gets to do a crying scene which actually works quite well.
Robin Tunney is given the damsel in distress role which isn’t particularly interesting, though thankfully the filmmakers don’t even try to push an unrealistic romance between her and Arnold (a character at least twice her age). Kevin Dunne makes an enjoyable comic relief sidekick who comes to a predictable end.
Still, the one who easily steals the show is Gabriel Byrne who gives us a whole new and extremely enjoyable interpretation of Satan. This is a nicely unpolitically correct devil who unashamedly lusts over women and says some funny things which Jerry Falwell couldn’t stand (eg. “God is not great, he just had a good publicist”, “if you take away that overblow press kit called the bible”).
On the down side, the concentration on making him funny has had the negative effect of making him not particularly threatening till he shows his true form in the end, which even then screams computer-animated. The faults in this lie in the story or lack thereof one.
Andrew Marlowe’s script gives us some great dialogue and good characters, but the story and even a lot of the action is pretty bare and repetitive. Most of the movie seems to be gunfights set around dark alleys or underground buildings, fine at first but gets monotonous very quickly. A little variation in the settings and the kinds of action that takes place would’ve helped.
As action thrillers go this is one of the better ones out there. Its fast, fun and takes you for a ride. The subject matter has been done to death before, but chances are if you liked the ads your probably going to like the flick itself.