Arnold Schwarzenegger vs. SATAN. That's all I had to hear to get me to watch this movie. See, I like Schwarzenegger- mostly for the first two Terminators, mind you, but also as a perfect escapist hero who, for a very long time, was synonymous with action films. Of course, by the late nineties, Arnold was suffering from a lack of good, iconic roles, appearing mostly in bland, forgettable pics and, well, Batman and Robin. But for me, End of Days was his last truly decent movie, and a perfect send-off for his career (though hardly a perfect film in and of itself). The film, as it is, is pretty preposterous: Jericho Cane, a former police officer turned bodyguard-for-hire, must protect a young woman from a sect of Satan worshipers. Seems that, with the new millennium fast approaching, Satan himself has risen from the depths of Hell and taken a human host so that he can consummate a predestined union with the girl and bring about- get ready for it- the End of Days! Jericho, a man who lost faith after the murder of his wife and child, must find a way to stop the ultimate evil without falling prey to it. Jericho is a very different character that we're used to seeing Schwarzenegger play- cynical, slovenly, even suicidal- and you get the idea that Arnold was trying to stretch himself as an actor; in the end, however, the character is nothing more than the Arnold Schwarzenegger we always watch, but with really severe stubble and messy hair. For a Schwarzenegger performance, though, it's not bad, and he even comes close to achieving genuine pathos a few times. Interestingly, this is also a film where Schwarzenegger gets his ass handed to him worse (and more frequently) than ever before, further emphasizing the idea that brute strength doesn't matter when facing the Lord of Lies- but it's hard to take it seriously when he's getting thrashed by a middle aged fat woman with inexplicable talons for fingernails. Robin Tunney as Christine York, the girl destined to sleep with the Devil, does convey the feeling of being perpetually on the verge of a nervous breakdown, but other than her ability to scream for help, her second most defining character trait is her giant doe eyes. Gabriel Byrne is a bit of obvious casting, being the second most likely person on the planet to actually BE Satan (the first, depending on who you ask, is either Christopher Walken or George W. Bush); he has fun with the part, sometimes a bit overmuch, but he is an admirable Lucifer- and the verbal (and physical) sparring between him and Jericho are the highlights of the movie. Interestingly, Kevin Pollak appears as Jericho's partner Chicago (who came up with these names?), a perfect sarcastic foil for Arnold that is greatly appreciated amid all the Satanism and brooding. In addition to Pollak and Byrne, the film is rife with Usual Suspects innuendo, none more prominent than the inclusion of the line, "the greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist." Unfortunately, the film gets kind of bogged down by its own premise, drudging through perfunctory scenes of Satanism and Catholic church politics that might have been interesting... if they hadn't been done so often before. Mostly, these scenes serve as a sort of window-dressing for the film, almost as if it were pretending to be a supernatural thriller while actually, at heart, still being an action flick. Either way, it's something to get past, so that the action- which is all spectacular, if almost entirely ludicrous- can have more of an impact. Arnold does do his job just as well here as we would expect of him, and with the degree of artillery he brings for the final showdown, we just know to expect a good degree of pyrotechnics. The green-screens for the movie haven't aged well, and some of them are pretty blatantly bad, but the CGI finale- in which Schwarzenegger comes face-to-face with Satan's true form- is still surprisingly good (when they don't go in TOO close on the model). All in all, End of Days seems like a transitional piece between Arnold's high-concept early days and his poorly-defined later work. It's not a great movie, not by a long shot- it can be cheesy, and clichéd, and predictable, and sometimes all three- but it's the last film that had that little spark of pure escapist entertainment that I loved from Schwarzenegger's movies. It's appropriate to me that this should be the first film in which a human Arnold dies at the end, as this was, in many ways, the death of the Schwarzenegger film, but at least he goes out in a blaze of glory. And hey, imperfect though it may be, it's still WAY better than Terminator 3.