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6th Day, The

Reviewed By Collin Souter
Posted 12/04/00 02:35:53

"'6th Day is, ironically, a cinematic clone of all the other McBain films."
3 stars (Average)

Sometimes you go into a movie knowing exactly what to expect on a purely superficial level. With Schwarzenegger’s name at the top of the poster, you can count on one of two things: Guns and explosions, or a wacky high-concept comedy. So, it goes with his latest film, The 6th Day. Here, we get the standard guns, explosions, Ah-nold as the everyman trying to set his normal life back on track, and pseudo-intellectual bad guys with incompetent henchmen (plus one henchwoman).

It seems fitting that a movie about cloning would feel, well, familiar. It fells like a Xerox copy of other Schwartzee films, such as Total Recall, Eraser, The Running Man, the McBain films, and True Lies

The film opens with facts straight from today’s headlines about the progression of cloning and the discovery of DNA patterns. Then, we get the obligatory futuristic movie caption, “The near future…closer than you think.”

Ah-nold plays Adam Gibson, a helicopter pilot with a wife (Wendy Crewson) and daughter. One day, he comes home and finds an exact replica of himself celebrating his daughter’s birthday. Next thing he knows, henchmen try killing him, a car chase ensues, and Adam jumps off a bridge and lives, a la The Fugitive.

With the help of his co-worker, Hank (Michael Rappaport, who reminds me more and more of Donny Most with every movie), Adam tries to find who set him up. The man in charge of the whole cloning phenomenon, Drucker (Tony Goldwyn), orders the termination of Adam, who they cloned by mistake when they really meant to clone Hank. If anybody finds out about the two Adam’s running around, Drucker’s operation will be shut down.

The 6th Day has been mis-directed by Roger Spottiswoode, who finds it necessary to interject the story with occasional 60’s-Batman-esque scene transitions. Something like that works for a film such as Charlie’s Angels, but here it feels about as natural a choice as a commercial break right in the middle of the car chase.

The film does have some terrific art direction. I loved the cloning laboratory, where the full-grown fetus’ hang as dead bodies would on meat hooks in water-filled tanks that seem to surround the place. The bodies look truly eerie when we see them up-close toward the end of the film. That also reminds me of one of the funnier parts of the film, where Ah-nold buys a doll for his daughter that looks, sounds and feels human, but there exists such a creepy and vacant expression about it, it looks like it should be an extra in Village Of The Damned. Furthermore, it talks in a sort of monotone like the twins from The Shining.

One scene occurs in the middle where a man tells Drucker that his son will die soon of an un-curable illness. Drucker tells him that he will be able to clone his son, and have him live a longer, more fruitful life. However, the man could go to jail for 40 years if anybody found out. This scene comes and goes, and we never hear about it again. But as it happened, I thought to myself, “This would make an interesting movie.”

The film works best when it tries to dissect the ethics of cloning. Robert Duvall, who plays Dr. Weir, Drucker’s assistant, serves as the voice of reason, since his wife contracted a life-threatening illness as a result of the cloning. Casting Duvall sometimes gives a movie more dignity than it might deserve, but something tells me The 6th Day had more going for it before the powers-that-be decided it might be too intellectual for mass audiences.

Therein lies the problem: The film has a lot of ideas going for it, but it gets bogged down by cliché action sequences. Just as the story starts getting interesting, we get sidetracked with standard action-movie problems: How come the everyman knows exactly what to do in an action sequence? How come they never screw up?

How come these bad guys have such bad aim? How does one become a henchman? Does everybody in real life say something funny after they kill a person? Haven’t I seen you somewhere before?

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