The holiday season. Christmas, the looming newborn year, a time to rejoice, indulge, appreciate the finer details, the things that matter. And reflect. Stop for a breather, take a look around, acknowledge your fortunes and grant your soul a cushioned moment to celebrate everything you have and are, all you’ve achieved, how far you’ve really come.
Or, you know, just take a leaf out of my bible and spend aaaaaaall the days stuffing your face with food that’s entirely too bad for you, while ignoring your responsibilities in favour of watching movies. Festive movies, movies to put you in the cheery mood and keep you there, a jovial hostage volunteering their psyche for a Stockholm Syndrome impressive enough to give Bejerot a grave hard-on (sorrynotsorry). Hey, why not go the full mile and do it in a ridiculous, tacky but insanely warm and fluffy Christmas outfit because cliches are cliches for a reason and this season keep the novelties for your viewing pleasures instead. And such is my contribution to the spouse’s cinematic holiday countdown.
End of Days.
Yes, you read that right.
No, I’m not high on elfdust.
My yuletide offering is Peter Hyams’ insanely bad, criminally pointless, but oh-so-very entertaining End of Days, an equally morose as it is moronic film taking place in a Holiday-lit, turn of century New York City. It features an Arnold Schwarzenegger who, bless his talentless heart, is trying so hard to deliver on an emotive level, watching him throw all his might into it actually becomes physically uncomfortable at times. Yet you can’t look away. Now, I know this is more of a New Year’s suggestion than it is a Christmas one but please, let me at least try to sell it to you because the cheer… give it a chance and it’ll be thrust both upon you and inside you. Violently. I promise you, this masterpiece will warm your heart and keep you merry until the end of days.
Or keep you reaching for the mulled wine but still, I call win-win.
So, this is a movie about, shock, horror!, the Apocalypse. Arnie vs Beelzebub, Good vs Evil, your pretty standard “let’s monetize on the new millennium frenzy” Hollywood stuff. There are no surprises to be found in the try-hard bends, the dialogue is horrendous, the premise kind of like spaghetti mush thrown on a platter from a distance – a heap of strings of baffle, laced with gloop of gobbledygook sauce.
Doesn’t sound like I’m pitching it right, right?
Only I am, hold on to your Santa stockings and hear me out because you’re about to have an honest-to-God religious experience.
In a toe-curling twist of spiritual magnitude, it transpires that the aforementioned combo is freaking delectable because it gloriously leaves us with a stomach full of a rather theatrical Satan (Gabriel Byrne), an ever-so-bewildered, doe-eyed Virgin Mary-in-distress (Robin Tunney), terrible special effects, Udo Kier, stabbings and backstabbings, more terrible special effects, freaking VATICAN KNIGHTS, a lot of booms and kapows, Udo Kier, a bunch of extras regretting their life choices, conflict, Udo Kier, conflict, even MORE conflict, and amidst all the chaotic clutter, amidst this nonsensical disarrange of filmic garbage… emerges a bonafide hero.
A tough and broody alcoholic Jesus figure, a grieving, lonesome ex-cop who’s lost everything in blood -the loving wife, the precious daughter-, experiencing circumstances that have chewed him up and spat him out a purposeless empty shell of a man in tremendous emotional turmoil. A man the mere melancholic presence of whom will have you instinctively reaching for the tissues…
…because you’ll be rolling on the rug, in front of the crackling fire, right next to the eggnog-filled glasses, fucking crying your eyes out with mirthful, roaring laughter, and if that doesn’t sound Christmassy, go away, you’re dead inside, you freaking monster.
From the get-go, from moment zero, from the second you hit ‘play’ you can see it, I swear, you can physically SEE it in Arnie’s gruff gestures, the grainy timber of his sorrowful voice, the way his platformed shoulders slump with the weight of the world, the constipating strain with which he taxes his facial features as he tries to release the tears — I swear, he read this script and bless his bulging muscles, the lightbulb over his head lit up with hope.
“Byrne, Tunney, Pollak, Kier, Steiger! This is it, this is THE script, my chance to prove to the world I am more than a glorified grunt, that I can truly act!”.
And pardon my spoiler here, dear reader. Pardon my spoiler.
He truly can’t.
But I will forever bless him for trying.