The Devil And Hissed Groans

Arnold's Inferno Turns Out To Be A Divine Comedy.

I AM SO sick of this millennium -- I mean, what has the last thousand years done for me lately? Like I really needed the Renaissance and the invention of conditioning shampoo. Let's face it: of all the millenniums we've been forced to suffer through, this one has got to be the lamest.

According to the latest Schwarzenegger explosion-fest, End of Days, even Satan agrees with me. It seems he'll be coming to earth in order to bring about, well, the end of days, which at this point would just be a big relief.

In order to execute his plans, he first takes over the body of an investment banker. I would have thought that Satan would have found the heart of an investment banker far too cold and forbidding, but apparently he's willing to make do. Luckily, the investment banker looks like foxy middle-aged actor Gabriel Byrne, which will work in well with the Dark Lord's plans: he must get his freak on in the final hour of the century in order to usher in the new age, when evil finally gets a chance to rule. Real evil, not that amateur crap that the World Trade Organization and Maury Povich have been foisting on us. No, Satan's idea of evil involves lots of heavy metal music and candlelight. You rule, Lucifer!

However, before the reign of hooded figures and rampant sex can arrive, Satan must get past Arnold Schwarzenegger, which, as anyone who's seen Terminator 2 or the Maria Shriver wedding videotapes knows, is not gonna be pretty.

In breaking from his normal roles, Schwarzenegger plays a brutish, heavily-armed man with a German accent. Not only that, his wife and daughter were killed by Bad People years earlier, leaving him with a grudge against life itself. That's the kind of motivating plot idea that you don't see in every film. (It's actually only used in every third film.)

Arnold gets wind of Satan's plans while blowing stuff up and shooting people. Actually, he's shooting a priest named Thomas Aquinas. Nobody in the film seems to have any awareness that the name Thomas Aquinas already has some currency in religious circles, so when Schwarzenegger asks people "Do you know Thomas Aquinas?" they never start quoting the Summa Contra Gentiles; instead they always just say "You mean that crazy priest?"

Thomas Aquinas runs afoul of Schwarzenegger while attempting to shoot Satan. Satan, as everyone knows, lives in New York and is a really good kisser. He's so good at it that he can just start kissing anyone he wants and they immediately get into it. Satan is kinda like David Hasselhof's idea of himself.

Anyway, Satan is running around kissing people and setting stuff on fire, but really he's on a quest to find the Chosen Woman who will bear his seed. Schwarzenegger, once he figures this out, decides to protect the Chosen Woman, thus putting Satan in the underdog position.

See, while Satan can bend the very fabric of reality, he's not entirely immune to a series of rapidly fired rounds from a Glock 9. Also, Schwarzenegger is fond of noting that compared to him, Satan is a choirboy.

Which isn't to say that Satan isn't every bit as evil as possible. For example, he freely urinates in public, and also makes those pretentious "air quotes" when he talks. Evil!

But Schwarzenegger has taken on space aliens and liberal politicians, so he's much more battle-hardened than Satan, and is sure to be Satan's fiercest opponent since Michael Dukakis. So, when Schwarzenegger hides the Chosen Woman from Satan, this really pisses Satan off. (See, if he doesn't get it on before midnight, all hell won't break loose.)

Schwarzenegger is back in proper form here, and he's consistently funny whenever he's not trying to be, which is sort of the story of his career. There's some actual intentional comedy from co-star Kevin Pollack that comes off pretty well too, and, of course, lots of sex and violence. Like, Satan gets it on with a mother and daughter. Mother/Daughter/Lord of Hell threesomes are a real rarity in today's stodgy cinema, so you won't want to miss this one.

It'd be hard to claim that End of Days is a good movie, at least not in any of the conventional senses of "good." But do we want a movie wherein Satan must defeat Arnold Schwarzenegger in order to get laid to be a good movie? No, of course not, we want it to be magnificently bad, and End of Days pretty much succeeds at that. Just think of it as a really rousing remake of The Muppets Take Manhattan and I think your low expectations will pay off in sheer cinematic fun.

End of Days is playing at Century Park (620-0750), Century El Con (202-3343), El Dorado (745-6241) and Foothills (742-6174) cinemas.

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