Josh Wolk says he's tired of lazy screenwriters demanding that viewers suspend too much disbelief

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”End of Days” typifies a troubling trend

I’ve never met Andrew Marlowe, the screenwriter of ”End of Days.” And yet he seems to hate me. How do I know this? Consider the following scene from Arnold Schwarzenegger’s new film:

Arnie’s character, crack security agent Jericho Cane, spots the words CHRIST IN NEW YORK scrawled on the stomach of an insane priest. With a faraway sleuthing look in his eye, Cane then mutters ”Christ in New York… Christ In York.. Christine York!” and immediately runs to see if there is a Christine York living in Manhattan. Go figure, there is, and she is a young woman unknowingly being delivered by a satanic cult to the devil to bear his child. And Cane has found out just in time to save her.

This was when I was convinced Marlowe bore me a grudge. Why else would he not only insult my intelligence, but spit in its popcorn, knee it in the groin, and give it a farewell wedgie. Was there any reason for Arnie to have given that slogan a second thought (let alone make that superhuman mental hopscotch) when ”Christ in New York” is a perfectly reasonable thing for a loony priest to have written, especially one who lives in New York? The phrase didn’t even SOUND mysterious: It could have at least been something like ”Stan Is Boin King.” ”Stan is… Satan is… Satan is Boin King.. boinking!.. The devil is looking to boink someone! Quick.. we must kick Beelzebubban ass!”

It wouldn’t have taken much effort to find a more plausible way for Cane to track down Christine York, but Marlowe apparently decided his time was better spent thinking up new fireballs for Arnold to dodge. But Marlowe is hardly the only writer with a short attention span for cleaning up his own plots. Another recent lazybones is Jeremy Iacone, who penned ”The Bone Collector.” (Skip the rest of this paragraph if you haven’t seen the film yet: Spoiler ahead.) Forensics whiz Denzel Washington has a photographic memory for everything he has ever read. When the serial killer leaves behind a pattern as a clue, Washington recognizes it as the publishing house emblem on an old book. When he recovers the tome, he sees it depicts the murders the killer is copycatting. But with his mental library, wouldn’t he have recognized the creative slayings IN the book long before he remembered a small insignia ON it? One thing’s for sure: As a forensics expert, he would have recognized the mark I left on the movie seat in front of me as I bashed my head against it in frustration.

”The Bone Collector” is better than ”End of Days,” but sloppy writing that yanks you out of a film long enough to assault your sense of logic prevents any movie from being great. Perhaps if writers were paid by the hour instead of by the project, they would have more incentive to take an afternoon to reread their scripts and honestly ask themselves if there are any scenes that make their brains feel all dirty inside. Tidy plotting is not too much to ask for. ”The Sixth Sense” and the unfairly ignored ”Arlington Road” both had deviously effective surprise endings that only worked because the scenarios leading up to them held together so logically.

A lot of people will say I’m nitpicking, and that — especially in thrillers and action movies — you have to suspend your disbelief. Yeah, but there should be an unspoken pact between movie and audience that you don’t have to suspend ALL of it. I don’t mind Satan coming to Earth, just don’t make Arnold smarter than hell.

End of Days

  • Movie
  • R
  • 118 minutes
  • Peter Hyams