Despite fleeting moments of clarity, where the characters are believably reacting to problems created and worsened by science-villains of the near future, "The 6th Day" amounts to the same old tarnished utopia fantasy that tries to dazzle one with a vision of North American life both happily obsessed with digital technology and still kicked-back enough to have cans of beer handy for thirsty guys on a break from running for their lives. Even if they are clones, a Budweiser still makes their day.
In a minutely more believable performance than usual in his trademark big-budget spectacles, Arnold Schwarzenegger
still gets to break a neck or two, fuss over his character's daughter like a good parent, pilot helicopters and -- rather tiresomely -- toss off the jokey afterthoughts when he terminates several opponents. The Columbia Pictures release, directed by Roger Spottiswoode
, ought to bring out the sci-fi faithful, who've been underserved this year in favor of dozens of cheap and expensive horror movies, but it won't come close to Schwarzenegger's mightiest triumphs at the boxoffice.
Married screenwriters Cormac and Marianne Wibberley
go only so far in imagining a future of talking refrigerators, cars that drive themselves and a society where smoking is illegal. If they tried to go much further, it might have been called "The 45th Day", as many devices shown and technologies employed require large dollops of explanation. Take for instance, RePet, a business devoted to cloning dead and dying family pets, an option that everyman lead Adam Gibson (Schwarzenegger) finds fundamentally disturbing.
The amount of time it takes for Adam and the audience to grasp the basics of how RePet works is not necessary given the minor contribution it makes to the story. Indeed, the movie lurches around a menu of options, none of which includes down-to-earth dramatics or believable motivations. The hope is that viewers will not mind the occasional forced injections of premise-clarifying chitchat and computer graphics -- in an unsuccessful attempt to keep things internally logical, almost always the catch in science fiction works -- because the whole milieu is so inescapably cool.
But cool in a bad way, "6th Day" -- so named for God's creation of man in Genesis -- has unexciting characters overall, and it relies on routine car chases and shootouts that would be even sillier without the booming soundtrack and special effects. While the helicopters flown by Adam and his partner Hank (Michael Rapaport) can morph into jets, and everybody throws laser bolts instead of lead, the filmmakers don't come up with any new memorable feats of derring-do and fail to explore the rich possibilities of a man confronting his own clone. (The Michael Keaton
comedy "Multiplicity" is arguably still the best of the genre.) Alas, though loaded up with some 600-plus special effects shots and lushly packaged in widescreen, the film comes nowhere near achieving the impact of paranoid sci-fi thrillers "The Terminator", "Total Recall" or "The Matrix". But it tries.
"6th Day" opens with an XFL game in which the sport's "first $300 million quarterback" suffers a career-ending spinal injury. On the way to the hospital, the injured man is snuffed out by one Robert Marshall (Michael Rooker
), an enforcer for Replacement Technologies. Not to worry. Although declared illegal, human cloning is possible, and Marshall's boss Michael Drucker (Tony Goldwyn
) has secretly been breaking the law for years. The fans and the world at large will never know the difference, and another investment is protected.
A very small amount of time is wasted on simplistic discussions of the philosophical/spiritual implications of cloning. Jokes are more the order of the day, with Marshall's frequently killed and resurrected comrades Talia (Sarah Wynter) and Wiley (Rod Rowland) always coming back for more. Drucker and his genius partner Dr. Weir (Robert Duvall) have more selfish reasons in mind than humanity's betterment with their clandestine operation meant to survive until the laws are changed and copying humans is accepted.
Adam is a former military pilot who runs a charter helicopter service with Hank. One day, they are hired by Drucker for a joyride to the mountains -- after a brief "vision" test -- with Hank pretending to be Adam, so the latter can deal with a crisis involving the death of the family pooch and whether or not to visit RePet. Bad things happen to Hank and Drucker, while Adam can't bring himself to mess with the natural cycle of life and gets a lifelike Sim-Pal doll instead, a creepy contraption that won't shut up and eventually suffers a fate worthy of Chucky.
Heading home late and anticipating a birthday party waiting for him, Adam instead discovers a clone in his house, having a ball with his wife (Wendy Crewson
), daughter, friends and the pesky cloned-behind-his-back dog. Before he can take action, Talia and Wiley try to grab him, in order to prevent anyone from seeing Adam and his clone together. But they flub it, and our hero jumps in a 1957 Cadillac for a house-crunching chase through suburbia. It ends with Adam taking a big, preposterous leap off a cliff into a river to get away.
When a making-no-sense Adam goes to the cops, he's humored and held until Marshall and crew show up. But Adam scampers away again and seeks out Hank. They go to Adam's house to spy on the clone. Adam not only must deal with his wife making love to a copy of himself, but his daughter almost exposes him. With a lame cigars-are-aphrodisiacs joke thrown in willy-nilly, the scene shifts to the troubles of Dr. Weir, whose once-cloned wife (Wanda Cannon
) is dying of a congenital defect stealithly programmed into her new body by Drucker.
Not long after this complication, more revelations occur and just about everybody turns out to be a clone, or will be one shortly. With a lengthy showdown at the headquarters of Replacement Technologies, where big tanks of "new bodies" are stored for Drucker's frequent use -- we're told that the cloning process takes two hours and costs $1.2 million -- "6th Day" is quite violent but not graphic. While Spottiswoode has an unfortunate weakness for slow motion, it's employed mostly to highlight stunts, of which the movie has its share of good ones.
From Hank's Virtual Girlfriend (played with saucy attitude by Jennifer Gareis
) to schools of not-really-there fish swimming in the huge interior of a shopping mall, holograms are ubiquitous in this vision of the future, but clothes and cars have changed little. There are marginal elements that hint at what surely must be a more complex world than today, but the status quo is maintained, and at least one large building blowing up is deemed acceptable for the good guy to emerge on top.
THE 6TH DAY
Phoenix Pictures presents
A Jon Davidson production
Director: Roger Spottiswoode
Screenwriters: : Cormac Wibberley
Producers: Mike Medavoy,
Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jon Davison
Executive producers: Daniel Petrie
Director of photography: Pierre Mignot
Production designers: James Bissell, John Willett
Editors: Mark Conte
Dominique Fortin, Michel Arcand
Costume designer: Trish Keating
Music: Trevor Rabin
Casting: Judith Holstra
Adam Gibson: Arnold Schwarzenegger
Hank Morgan: Michael Rapaport
Michael Drucker: Tony Goldwyn
Robert Marshall: Michael Rooker
Talia Elsworth: Sarah Wynter
Natalie Gibson: Wendy Crewson
Wiley: Rod Rowland
Dr. Griffin Weir: Robert Duvall
Running time - 124 minutes
MPAA rating: PG-13