End Of Days

End Of Days (1999)
Universal Home Video
Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Gabriel Byrne, Kevin Pollack, Robin Tunney
Extras: Commentary track, Documentary, Special effects Featurettes, Music videos, Trailer and more...

It had been over two years since Arnold Schwarzenegger graced the silver screen in the forgettable "Batman & Robin" and fans were certainly awaiting his return in anticipation. But Arnold Schwarzenegger in a horror movie? It was little hard to imagine and in case you have not seen the movie yet, let me point out that "End Of Days" is not really a horror movie. Just as most people would refer to James Cameron’s "Terminator" films as action movies with a science fiction element, "End Of Days" is clearly a Schwarzenegger action vehicle that happens to include a number of horror themes. Universal Home Video now brings us director Peter Hyams’ latest movie as a Collector’s Edition that also features some interesting bonus materials.

Jericho Cane (Arnold Schwarzenegger) used to be a cop in New York City. That was before his wife and daughter had been massacred as an act of revenge for his interfering with criminal elements. Now he is an alcoholic bodyguard-type security agent who does his job only to keep himself afloat. One day he and his partner Chicago (Kevin Pollack) are assigned to protect an important Wall Street financier (Gabriel Byrne) who is promptly becoming the target of a hitman. Jericho manages to thwart the attempted assassination and follows the shooter. When he eventually brings him down, it turns out the assassin is an old priest. From there things go horribly awry, as Jericho is pulled into a maelstrom of theological thesis, his own belief and the Bible’s revelations. Despite his rational thinking, the more he investigates the case, the more it seems as if the Devil himself is loose on New York’s streets and that he is after Christine York (Robin Tunney) – the chosen one. After a long struggle with his own believes and convictions, Jericho realizes he has to save the girl or the world will be ruled by Darkness forever. That’s not a simple as it sounds, as the Devil is treacherous and skillful, tempting even Jericho.

I really liked the taglines that went with the film indicating that Arnold Schwarzenegger is facing off against his most powerful enemy ever, and the movie did not disappoint. Wall to wall action and large scale explosion dominate the movie for the most part, making this another signature Schwarzenegger action film. However, the ominous and dark story line that involves theological aspects, and of course the devil with his horrors, adds a new dimension to the mix. Especially Gabriel Byrne’s delivery of the Devil is absolutely tantalizing. Seductive and tempting, yet cold, brutal and violent, Byrne makes a smooth transition between the different moods of the character within the blink of a second. A visibly muscled-down Arnold Schwarzenegger as the savior of the world is also coming across nicely, especially when he gets the chance to fire up the screen with bullets and grenades, just the way fans want to see him. However his portrayal is much deeper this time, adding new facets to his acting skills as dramatic moments become more frequent and he has to explore his own inner abyss.

Universal Home Video’s Collector’s Edition of "End Of Days" features the film in a <$16x9,16x9 enhanced> <$PS,widescreen> presentation in the movie’s original 2.35:1 aspect ratio. The transfer is highly detailed, beautifully restoring the visual qualities of the movie without noise or grain. The source print that was used is devoid of any flaws or blemishes and the transfer perfectly restores the dark look of the movie without losing any of the details in the shadows. The black level is perfect and creates deep, foreboding shadows. The highlights are also very well balanced creating a stunning warm look for the movie, just as intended by the filmmakers. Color delineation is without flaws, creating sharply defined hues that restore even the most subtle gradients. Some edge-enhancement is evident in select scenes where contrast are very extreme, but is never gets distracting. The compression has been prepared just as well, without any signs of <$chroma,chroma noise> or <$pixelation,pixelation>.

Another truly remarkable trait of the release is its audio track. Presented in a <$5.1,5.1 channel> <$DD,Dolby Digital> mix, "End Of Days" features one of the most active and aggressive surround mixes in the market. Beautifully balanced, the mix treats surrounds not as effects channels the way most productions do, but rather integrates the discrete surrounds almost naturally in the overall mix creating a mix that is constantly deep and dimensional. The audio mix is very well balanced and always ensures that dialogues are understandable and audible. The track has a good frequency response with a very good bass extension that gives the many action scenes the necessary punch without ever appearing overly loud. This is a reference track that shows just how much well-produced multi-channel mixes can add to the overall movie experience.
The disc also contains a <$commentary,commentary track> by director Peter Hyams. The <$commentary,audio commentary> is very thorough as Hyams goes through many aspects of the movie, ranging from general thoughts to pointing out specifics of the production. Although it contains a few pauses, they get less as the director gets more into it, and eventually he comments on most everything you see on the screen.

Other supplements on this special edition include an excellent "Spotlight on Location" documentary that takes viewers behind the scenes of the production of this movie. Featuring interviews with the cast and crew members this 25-minute featurette gives viewers a good impression about the production, how it came about and what the intentions of the filmmakers were. It also explains some of the special effects but mostly focuses on the story elements of the movie as well the characters and actors.

"The Devil’s Playground" is a section that is dedicated to the special effects of the movie. Dissecting a number of key scenes in detail with behind the scenes footage and interviews, you can get a really good idea here, what it took to bring these effects to life. It covers both practical and computer generated effects in quite some detail, and each one of these 2 to 5 minute segments is extremely informative for anyone interested in the process of special effects.
A text piece about the Book of Revelation can also be found here as well as two rarely seen music videos by Everlast and Rob Zombie. Strangely these videos can not be selected individually and have to be viewed in sequence. The theatrical trailer, production notes, extensive cast and crew biographies, as well as other trailers round off this great release from Universal.

On the DVD-ROM side, the disc offers quite some interesting features as well, namely a photo gallery with many promotional still from the movie, some additional behind-the-scenes text material, postcards and screensavers as well as web links.

Although "End Of Days" may not be the horror movie many have expected, it is an absolutely solid action film with a number of horrific elements. The theological undertone of the film is nicely represented and creates a rather unique atmosphere for the entire movie. Once again, Universal Home Video is serving up a fantastic Collector’s Edition here that contains a stunning presentation of the movie itself, as well as valuable and informative supplements to accompany it. This is a powerhouse of a release that now serious DVD owner should miss out on.