End of Days DVD Not a Turkey?
End of Days, a millennial tale concerning the "End of Days," died at the box office with nary a whimper, but it's not quite the turkey that critics and industry insiders have dubbed it. It certainly has its flaws—not least of which is the predictability of so many of its plot elements—but it's not as bad as you've heard.
Days was Schwarzenegger's first film following his heart surgery, which means it's too soon to predict a new direction for the Austrian Oak, but Arnie's character, Jericho, is falling apart physically and psychologically. He seems alive only when working—which, in his case, is being a high-tech body-guard. While on a case, he takes a few rounds for a client (ah, the wonders of Kevlar) and begins to uncover a plot that involves the Vatican, an innocent girl, and the Devil himself. So, it's up to Arnie to prevent the end of the world. Admittedly, this isn't exactly a new direction for Schwarzenegger, but it does contain a darkness and sense of mortality that has been missing from his franchise roles.
And when I say darkness, I don't just mean metaphorically. This is one dark film—lots and lots of shadows, night scenes, subterranean tunnels, and the like. The DVD keeps things clean and clear, however. It really is an eye-popping transfer. And the surround effects are spectacular—big, spacious, encompassing. The dialogue, effects, and score are skillfully balanced, making Days a demonstration DVD for sound quality.
The cast is unusually good. Gabriel Byrne makes a quietly compelling Satan, in a performance all the more impressive for going against expectations. Kevin Pollak delivers a serviceable turn as Schwarzenegger's best friend and co-worker—a role that action-movie conventions dictate will be short-lived. And Rod Steiger adds some gravitas as the dedicated priest who knows the full story of the End of Days.
End of Days is far from perfect, but it plays honestly by the rules and, if you can buy the premise, delivers a solid emotional wallop. The DVD's technical properties are beyond reproach. If the same can't be said about all of the film's minor plot points, well, I got the impression that director Peter Hyams was trying to do something new with the venerable Schwarzenegger franchise. Surely he deserves some credit for that.