According to Arnold Schwarzenegger's latest action flick, this New Year's Eve another seemingly ageless spectre besides Dick Clark will be haunting the big party in New York City.
Let's see now... Who could it be? Oh, I don't know... Could it be... SATAN?
That's right folks, Satan is taking his own bite out of the Big Apple on New Year's eve, not so much to celebrate the end of the millennium (maybe he knows enough math to realize that happens NEXT year), no, he's here to have sex with a woman-- a chance he only gets every thousand years. And you thought Spock had it bad.
But first, Beelzebub must do battle with Arnold Schwarzenegger. Arnold plays Jericho Cade, an ex-cop turned hot shot security guard, whose body shows no signs of years of drinking and abuse. Cade is suicidal and depressed because his family was murdered by thugs.
When Cade and his partner, Chicago, (Kevin Pollack) thwart the assassination of a ruthlesss Wall Street "scumbag," (Gabriel Byrne) Cade is surprised to find that the shooter he captures is a Catholic priest named Thomas Aquinas. (Oddly, he might as well be named John Smith, for all the reaction this gets from the other characters.)
It seems that Aquinas has stumbled onto the fact that Satan has taken on this human form, and is about to mate with a woman, Christine York (Robin Tunney). And when he does, the earth will not merely move, it will end. For 20 years, the Catholic Church has been looking for this woman who has been specifically raised for this purpose by a manipulative coven. Some say she should be killed to protect humanity, others argue that evil can not be fought by evil, and they must work for her salvation.
Through the everpresent mystery movie clue, the bar sponsored matchbook, and another clue Satan carves onto a victim's body (in order to make it more fair, I guess), Cade tracks down Christine. He then has his hands full, trying to keep a rouge element of priests from killing her, and Satan from--well, you know.
We discover that timing is critical. You see, the whole 666 thing was really a typo. It's supposed to be 999, as in the last year of a millennium (right) and somehow, the priests have figured out that Satan must do the deed within the hour before the year changes. "Is that Eastern Time?" Cade scornfully asks a priest played by Rod Steiger in one of the few intentionally funny moments.
The premise, which has a few good central ideas, mainly that faith is a better weapon against spiritual evil than violence, is vastly undercut by a long typical Schwarzenegger action chase in which he battles with Satan. Apparently once he takes human form, you can buy time with a over and under machine gun/grenade launcher.
There are times in this movie, particularly the big temptation debate between Satan and Cade, that you think they might have something here. Gabriel Byrne has some very nice moments in the movie's first two reels, especially when he compliments a teenager on his "Satan Rules!" tee shirt. But Schwarzenegger is just not up to even the meager demands of this role. As he proved as Mr. Freeze in "Batman and Robin," stoic works much better for him than emoting.
Surprisingly, even less convincing than Arnold's rictus-like expressions, are the special effects. Considering this was directed by Peter Hyams ("Outland" and "2010"), and the kind of bankroll Schwarzenegger generally attracts, they look cheap and old.
Writer Andrew Marlowe ("Air Force One") takes half a Bible verse out of context, then steals liberally from "Rosemary's Baby" and "The Devil's Advocate," (the best example of how to do this kind of movie) and tries to combine them with "The Terminator." But the result is barely better than the pitiful "Omega Code."