After a two-year hiatus that included recovery from heart surgery, Arnold Schwarzenegger returned to the big screen at the end of 1999 with End of Days
, a Christmas turkey if ever there was one. Overcooked and bloated with stuffing, this ludicrous thriller attached itself to the end-of-the-millennium furore. The prologue begins in 1979 with panic in the Vatican when a comet signals the birth of a child who will, 20 years later, become the chosen bride of Satan, destined to conceive the devil's spawn between 11 p.m. and midnight on December 31, 1999. It's hard to decide who has the more thankless role--Robin Tunney as Satan's would-be bride, or Schwarzenegger as Jericho Cane, the burned-out alcoholic bodyguard assigned to protect the girl from Satan, billed as "The Man" and played with cheesy menace (and an inconsistent variety of metaphysical manifestations) by Gabriel Byrne.
With kitsch character names like Jericho and Chicago (Arnie's partner, played by Kevin Pollack) and lapses in logic that any five-year-old could spot, End of Days is a loud, aggravating movie that would be entertaining if it were intended as comedy. But Schwarzenegger and director Peter Hyams approach the story as an earnest tale of redemption and tested faith, delivering a ridiculous climax full of special effects and devoid of dramatic impact. You're left instead to savour the verbal and physical sparring between Satan and Jericho, resulting in the most thorough pummelling Schwarzenegger's ever endured on screen. Of course he eventually gets his payback, just in time for New Year's Eve. Perhaps he was touched by an angel? --Jeff Shannon