The 6th Day
review by Elias Savada, 1 December 2000

I wonder if The Sixth Day, Arnold Schwarznegger’s muscular new entry, is really a newly-sprung film or just a explosive, high-concept retread of themes and characters found in his earlier efforts. He’s a helicopter pilot (True Lies) involved in a genetic caper (Twins) that showcase two sides of the seemingly same person (Last Action Hero). His eyes may not bulge out as much as they did when nearly suffocating on Mars in Total Recall, but there’s plenty of choking and red faces amongst the behind-the-camera talent to blame for this misfired clone (pun intended). Attempting to kick-start the aging action figure’s sagging career after the disastrous End of Days two years back, this "best of" collection tries to retrace all the bases previously covered by the Austrian-born superstar. Rather than prodding the viewer to applause, you end up playing match-the-sequence from one of Ah-nold’s previous pictures or picking out the product placements for cars, beer (with all the techno-chic mumbo jumbo, I expected a microbrew, not Budweiser), and other sundry items. Taken on a gamer’s level (as one of the copter chase montages suggest you do), this one barely passes muster and seems to last longer than the presidential election. Save your quarters and your time.

Helmer Roger Spottiswoode (Under Fire, Tomorrow Never Dies, Turner & Hooch, Air America) may have the snazzy mechanics down pat, but the James Bissell and John Willett’s sci-fi, gizmo-laden production design of a not-too-distant future ("Closer than you think" we are warned.) and a ultra-loud, heart-pumping score collapses under a half-baked script by the husband and wife writing team of Marianne and Cormac Wibberley. This is their first major feature (press materials ignore their direct-to-video Motel Blue), herein detailing megalomaniacal theft of the gene pool in the form of illegal cloning that inadvertently brings about one Arnold (i.e. family man Adam Gibson) too many. It’s all too obvious that what’s really missing here is James Cameron. Instead with get good guys, bad guys, doppelgangers, a handful of tedious subplots (especially one involved the Speaker of the House), and a tablespoon of Big Brother’s watching you.

Intrigue, deception, and weird goings-on blast their way into a world ablaze with extreme sport. The opening sequence highlights ultra-XFL football quarterback Johnny Phoenix (Steve Bacic), complete with futuristic virtual helmet screen, suffering a seemingly back-breaking, career-ending injury. The ambulance ride brings a even darker fate, until the star later shows up apparently unharmed. What’s up? Who’s who? Who’s what? The filmmakers send in the clones early on, and their replacements, and then some more. Death don’t come easy for the henchpeople (henchpersons?), which have as their Fearless Leader one Michael Drucker (Tony Goldwyn, borrowing from his Ghost persona), an evil Bill Gates zigabillionaire tycoon ("the world’s second most important person") who owns sports teams and a big secret. Adam involuntary gets cloned and therein sets up a dilemma for the conglomerate that is moving up the food chain in replacement technology (pets are ok, human cloning has been banned…for now).

When the family dog is put to sleep, Adam finds himself in a quandary, as this old-fashioned guy doesn’t take to the "cloning is love" and "totally proven technology" marketing tags for Re-Pets and thinks the concept unethical (as do several Fundamentalist protestors throughout the film), although he plucks up for his eight-year-olda daughter a Sim-Pal doll companion that fails miserable as a ugly Cabbage Patch toy child/child toy.

A half-hour into the two-plus hour film, Robert Duvall is introduced as the soft-spoken evil scientist stuck between a Frankensteinian rock and a hard egg (Drucker), with an ill wife and loose-fitting ethics pulling him every which way. You’d be inclined to say he did the role for the money (he’s certainly proven himself a better actor), but he actually teamed up with Spottiswoode nearly twenty years ago in The Pursuit of D.B. Cooper, in another wasted role. I still think he did it for the bucks.

The writers try to throw us a humorous bone every so often, some if effective. I liked the police precinct officer that provides virtual attorneys or absurdist Freudian psychiatrists counseling a perturbed Adam, but the toss-away lines like "Try to stay dead this time, "Doesn’t anyone stay dead anymore?," and "We’ve all been killed before" are flattened by the moralistic meandering of the plot and the social implications of mortality within the hands of the high and the mighty.

Schwarzenegger’s swagger certainly helps keep this from the dustbin, with a brief assist from Michael Rapaport as a wisecracking chopper chum whose home life is enhanced by the latest in cyberbabe technology. Michael Rooker, Sarah Wynter, Rod Rowland, and Terry Crews are the adequate goon squad, most of whom get bumped and bruised more than any second banana can bear. As for the continuity, Vancouver takes a beating and someone stumbled when I spotted a wedding ring on both Arnolds. Somehow I doubt one of those trinkets wasn’t part of the cyber-genetic, birthday-suit process. Heck, it’s probably fool’s gold anyway.

Directed by:
Roger Spottiswoode

Arnold Schwarzenegger
Tony Goldwyn
Michael Rapaport
Michael Rooker
Sarah Wynter
Wendy Crewson
Rod Rowland
Terry Crews
Ken Pogue
Colin Cunningham
Robert Duvall

Written by:
Cormac Wibberley
Marianne Wibberley





  Copyright © 1996-2005 by Nitrate Productions, Inc. All Rights Reserved.