by the Grinch
This must've been Peter Hyams looking at his inbox: "Hmm...proposed projects: 'Rambo vs. Buddha'?...Mmm, No. 'Kung Fu Krishna'?...no, that was called 'Kickboxer'...'Arnold vs. Satan'? Hmmm...Note to self, give Arnold Schwarzeneggar's agent a call!"(If you actually think an action flick can be ruined by spoilers, then I suggest you drop this review as if it were Jim Varney and Roseanne Barr's illegitimate baby)
"'I just hope the working title wasn't 'End of Careers''"
The world is seething with pre-millenial tension. It is prophecized somewhere (I say somewhere, because damned if I can find it in the bible or any books by that nostrildamus guy) that a woman will be born to bear Satan's love child, and once that child is born, Hell will be a place on Earth...or something like that. The only thing standing in Ole Scratch's way is ex-cop-turned-bodyguard 'Jericho Cain'. Why he's named after a biblical city and a guy who killed his brother is beyond me, maybe the writer pulled out a bible, closed his eyes, and dropped the finger...if you're finicky about your action flicks, you may wanna drop the finger yourself after seeing this.
While most of the movie really wasn't all that bad, I just couldn't help but feel like the writers didn't use their imaginations enough...there were tons of things they could've done, they could've pulled out all the stops, but they just took the safe, restrained road...and to boot, they tried to staple a message to everything...please guys, leave stuff like that to Scorsese, ok?
The action itself was pretty much what you'd expect. Lots of explosions, guns, male bonding, turkish baths...ok, I made up the male bonding part. But there's one prerequisite I need if stuff blows up in a movie: There has to be a REASON stuff blows up! There's like a hundred sequences where Gabriel Byrne walks away from something as it blows up behind him...and I just don't buy that it's "Gabriel's Fire". Bruce Willis just jumping off a skyscraper as some unspecified object explodes dramatically behind him wouldn't have cut it in Die Hard, and it doesn't cut it here. It's almost as if the writers were brainstorming: "Well, he's the Prince of Darkness, we can't have him posess someone, violate women, bust up bar mitzvahs, do all this crazy stuff and then have him just non-chalantly leave the restaurant, he needs a dramatic exit...I KNOW, we'll just blow it up!" LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, ELVIS AND LUCIFER HAVE LEFT THE BUILDING.
Does Satan have Iron Maiden's pyrotechnics crew or what? I can see it now- TONIGHT AT THE COLISSEUM, BEELZEBUB: THE 1999 END OF WORLD TOUR! "Hello New York! We are LEGION!" (Huge Explosion, distorted minor key guitar riff starts, a leather pants wearin' Gabriel Byrne starts singing in a falsetto-sustained note-heavy metal voice) Yeah, Rock'n'Roll! Oh sorry, I just realized this entire paragraph was unnecessary.
Why is it the Devil can walk right through exploding, flame spewing buildings yet can't handle a few rounds from a machine gun? And how come Satan chose Gabriel Byrne anyway? If Satan's such a badass, why does he need to posess a guy with bodyguards?
What rhyme or reason is there in that? I have a hard time believing the Guy-Down-Under (And I don't mean Oz, all resemblances aside) is so disorganized. Why didn't he just posess Robin Tunney's gynecologist or dentist? "Okay, I'm going to give you something for the pain...OOPS! My penis accidentally fell into your vagina! And your chocolate fell into my peanut butter! Pleased to meet you! Exit STAGE LEFT!"...
The CGI effects were actually very well placed. For the most part, everything was pretty subtle, and there was a particular "orgy" dream scene where the use of computer effects were put to the creepiest use since Terminator2...or Sperminator2, depending on your viewpoint.
The actors as well really aren't at fault for the lukewarm reception from me. And yes, I'd have to agree that Udo Kier would've been a superb Prince of Darkness, but ever since the Warhol days it seems like the Studios only want to put him in roles where he plays a snivelling yesman. Really, count on your hands the number of times this guy's played a character that went out like a beezatch...okay, better get out the abacus! And as much as I'd like Robin Tunney to carry my own demonspawn, I have to say she looked lost throughout half the film...blander than James Spader eating a vanilla ice cream cone, but it's not really her fault. And yes, Virgina, there is a Satan, and he's actually played up very nicely by Gabriel Byrne. Byrne's portrayal of evil incarnate seems like an accurate one: smarmy, over-confident, patient when seducing and quick to destroy, Byrne's version of Satan was pretty impressive: This is a persona you'd undoubtedly develop after a near eternity in hell surrounded by sycophant succubi and incubi. Oh wait, am I talking about Lucifer here or George Lucas?
Even Arnold does a decent job, spouting his lines with austrian-tinged gusto. It's the same role he's played for over a decade, but hey, Arnie's got bills to pay too. I do have this to say: ARNOLD, STOP WITH THE MODERN DRAMA! You just can't do it! That's ok, JUST KNOW YOUR LIMITS!
The main problem is the script and Peter Hyams' generic direction. Taking a tab of acid and then combing the scripts for 'Seventh Sign', 'Rosemary's Baby', and 'Raw Deal' do not make a very interesting movie. The stupid sub-plot involving Arnold and his family was one blow...jeezus, I could almost hear the violins start when they had a flashback scene involving his wife and kid! The final death blow, what took away any possibility of a 'Worth a look' rating from me is the last quarter of the film. It all just ran out of steam, and it soon became evident just how ludicrous the entire premise is. Arnold vs. Satan? What's next? Freddy Krueger vs. GOD? James Bond vs. Aliens? Jackie Chan vs. the Twelve Apostles? Now THAT would be a kickin' movie!(Mimicking Voice of Satan) Stop delaying the inevitable, Ahnuld!
Make Conan3, NOW, before you're playing shuffle board in a nursing home with Gary Busey!
link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=798&reviewer=156
originally posted: 12/03/99 17:24:09