Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (August 5, 2018)
Despite predictions that January 1, 2000 would bring widespread mayhem, the whole thing wound up as a peaceful bust – and not just for the folks who wasted money on canned goods and bottled water or for the
Satanists who wanted the downfall of society. Financially, a lot of people took a bath, especially everyone who organized these mega-expensive New Year's Eve parties that attracted few revelers.
Hollywood also suffered from the lack of “Millennium Fever”, mainly because they foisted a bunch of apocalyptic efforts upon us but none caught fire at the box office. Probably the most highly-anticipated of the bunch, End Of Days also had the distinction of being the last millennium-oriented Hollywood film to appear prior to the actual date.
Add to that its $100 million budget and the fact it was Arnold Schwarzenegger's first movie since 1997's borderline disastrous Batman & Robin and you can understand why so many
viewed it as a potential blockbuster.
Alas, that was not to be. I don't know if Days feel victim of millennium apathy or if movie-goers just thought it looked stupid, but it didn't perform well at the box office. It grossed a not-horrible but pretty weak $66 million in the US and faded away pretty quickly.
And pretty deservedly so. Days isn't a terrible movie but it's a pretty blah one, and that's not a good look for an action/horror/thriller.
On December 28, 1999, the devil comes to New York City and inhabits the body of a local man (Gabriel Byrne). Beelzebub comes down to Manhattan to seek Christine York (Robin Tunney), a young woman marked at birth by Satanists to become their leader’s bride.
Ex-cop Jericho Cane (Schwarzenegger) finds himself witness to many nutty shenanigans related to this event. Along with partner Chicago (Kevin Pollak), Cane seeks to stop Satan and save Christine.
The greatest flaw I find in Days stems from the fact that for pretty much all of the movie, we find ourselves way ahead of the characters. It's not unusual for films - particularly horror pictures - to let the audience in on aspects of the action before the on-screen participants learn, but in this case, it reaches an absurd extreme.
By maybe ten minutes into Days, we know exactly what's happening - and what will happen - for at least the first half of the film. That means an hour or more of plot that goes nowhere because it's already essentially been covered.
The second half of Days seems less predictable, but by that point, the film had already lost me, and the events of the final hour weren't compelling enough to regain my interest. Sure, the movie contains a few well-executed action pieces - actually, one chase scene early in the picture provides some of its best thrills - but these can't redeem the film's slow pace.
As noted, Days offered Schwarzenegger's first movie in two years, and it’s clear he didn’t spent the time off taking acting lessons. He actually looks slimmer more recognizably human here, and that helps him in this role, one that requires him to be more sensitive and less robotic than usual. Unfortunately, he still can't pull off the emotional aspects of the movie, though I applaud him for trying.
Tunney also seems underwhelming as Christine, the woman at the center of the plot. Arnie can't act, but at least he offers a strong presence, whereas Tunney might have some acting skills but provides a negligible on-screen presence on-screen.
Tunney seems so wan and flat that she might as well not have been there. Couldn't they find someone with a little more zest and personality?
At least two of the supporting actors help. Byrne has some trouble with his American accent but otherwise gives the film a real kick in the pants with his slyly subversive portrayal of the ultimate baddie. He contains any thoughts of over-emoting and provides Days with some of its high points.
Pollak gives his formulaic role as Arnie's sidekick Chicago a bit more punch than the usual comic pal. He throws out the expected wisecracks with panache.
By the way, it should be observed that Days displays something of a Usual Suspects-wannabe syndrome. Not only does it bring back Pollak and Byrne - two of that film's stars - but also it steals one of
Usual Suspects' most memorable lines: "The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist”.
Days offers a slickly-made, mildly watchable thriller that doesn't do much terribly wrong but it simply never catches fire. It boasts a few thrills but they're too few and far between to make the movie good.