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The 6th Day   B-

Columbia Pictures

Year Released: 2000
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Director: Roger Spottiswoode
Writers: Cormac Wibberley, Marianne Wibberley
Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Tony Goldwyn, Michael Rapaport, Michael Rooker, Sarah Wynter, Wendy Crewson, Robert Duvall.

Review by Rob Vaux

"If I was an imitation -- a perfect imitation -- how would you know if it was really me?"
--Keith David, The Thing

You've got to hand it to Schwarzenegger: there's just no quit in the man. Despite a string of horrendously bad pictures dating back nearly 10 years, he keeps getting back on the horse and trying again. Sooner or later, he's got to get one right. It's just a matter of probability. With The 6th Day, he's stacked the odds by giving us two Arnolds for the price of one, and the gamble pays off. Though hardly on the level of great science fiction, it manages to produce an entertaining two hours... something very few of his recent films can claim.

The 6th Day presents us with a pseudo-plausible near future, similar to the one in Arnold's Total Recall, where quarterbacks have vidscreens on their helmets and lonely men can buy virtual girlfriends for those long winter nights. Cloning has become a big business in this world, with products ranging from a creepy set of "Sim-Pal" dolls to a company called RePet, which can replace a beloved deceased animal with a perfect imitation. Human cloning, however, presents many more problems and a series of laws -- called 6th Day Protocols in reference to Genesis -- prevents human beings from being duplicated, despite the potent temptations it presents.

The filmmakers ostensibly want to play with the dicey morality of such a scenario -- the Frankensteinian implications of cloning and the terrible desire to use it. Luckily for them, they eventually abandon those pretensions in favor of old-fashioned explosions and ray gun fights. Schwarzenegger films never benefit from serious themes and this one wisely chucks the Deep Thoughts as hopelessly beyond their grasp. The mayhem starts when seasoned pilot Adam Gibson (Arnold) comes home to a family birthday party only to find an exact replica of himself blowing out the candles. His confusion soon turns to action when a gaggle of thugs show up to blow his head off. Apparently, somebody has cloned him in violation of the law and as long he remains among the living, he's evidence of their crime. So we're off on a hyperactive game of laser tag as Arnold must fight his way through the infinitely renewable adversaries (the term "disposable bad guys" takes on a whole new meaning here) while simultaneously wrestling with his conscience. After all, his problems will disappear if he simply kills his clone.

No one will mistake The 6th Day for anything but a Schwarzenegger film. Everything you expect from His Arnoldness is here -- the corny one-liners, the gratuitous violence (the PG-13 rating on this thing is a joke), the mild social parody taken too far. Many segments have been clearly lifted from other movies (the dam jump from The Fugitive makes a particularly shameless appearance), but Schwarzenegger displays his charm with such practiced ease that he manages to propel the movie past its shakier spots. The presence of two on-screen Arnolds never becomes old, and no other film treats its audience to the singularly unique experience of watching him give himself a pep talk. Moments like that make some of the more blatant rip-offs infinitely easier to stomach.

Naturally, the plot exists solely for the purpose of providing gunfights and chase scenes, and director Roger Spottiswoode is competent enough to make them reasonably interesting. The gadgets and hardware receive a lot of attention, and while that often works to the detriment of the story, they're imaginative enough to keep our attention (the laser guns, for example, have a nice flourish to them, making the gunfights thoroughly distinctive). Spottiswoode also has the presence of mind to include a lot of small touches in between the explosions, such as the battered VW bug circa 1999 or the marvelous comeuppance reserved for Arnold's chief foe (Tony Goldwyn). The 6th Day dollops out these tidbits in small amounts, but they add up at the end to a fairly satisfying whole.

Most reviews of this film are actually fairly superfluous: everyone knows going in whether they're the target audience or not. Schwarzenegger fans will find plenty of the usual material to enjoy, while those not fond of his particular brand of filmmaking would do better to find a nice romantic comedy. The 6th Day never pretends to be anything that it isn't and makes the most of its admittedly well-worn formula. There's something to be said for reliable pap, especially after Arnold's lengthy estrangement from palatable entertainment. It's good to see the old warhorse back in form, even if it takes two of him to do it.

Review published 11.24.2000.

For another opinion, read Jeremiah Kipp's review.

IMDb | buy it at Amazon.com

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Amazon.com

buy it at Amazon.com




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