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The 6th Day Review

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by Chris McEneany Apr 1, 2008

    The 6th Day Review
    My moving-picture-relationship with Arnold Schwarzenegger ended, appropriately enough, with the dreary and daft End Of Days, so it was a long time before I gave in and watched his next-to-last action-man-swansong for Roger Spottiswoode, The 6th Day, hailing from 2000. Seems an awful long time ago, doesn't it? And, indeed, watching this colourful but hollow action-thriller, your mindset is transported back to a more superficial and bland time when it seemed that the action stalwarts of the 80's could no longer perform. The last year or so has, of course, proved this notion to be wrong in every way - with Stallone thundering back to form with Rocky Balboa and a fourth Rambo film, Bruce Willis grinning his way through a surprisingly effective Die Hard 4 and Harrison Ford about to reclaim the throne as Indiana Jones. But, with The 6th Day, Arnie basically sent himself up and subsequently dropped off the map, with only the enjoyable, but really rather poor, Terminator 3: Rise Of The Machines to lay his fighting, pre-Governator persona to rest.

    “All I know is that there is somebody in my house, eating my birthday cake, with my family, and its not me!”

    Arnie's miraculously conventionally-named Adam Gibson - no Dutch Schaeffer, John Matrix etc - works as a charter pilot for a super-duper helicopter tour and adventure company alongside his buddy - in that time-honoured, amicable-yet-unlikely sidekick fashion of wise-cracking nerd-friends for muscle-headed hero types - Hank Morgan (Michael Rapaport actually managing to be both amicable and unlikely). When a new policy of eyeball-scanning and finger-printing coincides with not only prestigious cloning boffin and corporate tycoon Michael Drucker's (Tony Goldwyn) chopper ride but with Adam's own birthday party, events take a sinister and perplexing turn. Adam arrives, confused and slightly dazed at home to discover that he, himself, is already there and enjoying that party he had been looking forward to. Then, to make matters worse, a couple of pseudo-officials turn up and inform him that an illegal human cloning has taken place and that he was the one who was cloned. The impostor whooping it up with his attractive wife (played by Wendy Crewson) is allowed to get away with it when Adam realises that these gun-toting agents are actually there to kill him, instead. Unsurprisingly, the aging Arnie still proves to be quite spritely and strong and, after ditching his unwanted chaperones ends up on the run from a secretive scientific organisation that has been performing such cloning for some time and will kill to protect their illicit and powerfully far-reaching enterprise. But when no-one believes his outlandish story and people that he has already killed keep on cropping up again with their laser-sights trained on him, Adam's predicament lurches from bad to worse. Having faced a dreadlocked alien Predator, an ice-skating samurai in The Running Man, both a liquid-metal and a female Terminator, a royally peeved Michael Ironside in Total Recall and the Devil, himself, in End Of Days, Arnie now has to either battle or join sides with himself if he is going to survive this adventure. Or just, ahem, try to make head or tail of it.

    “It costs me 1.2 million to bring you guys back. Try to be worth the money.”

    The roster of villainy is dreadful. We have Michael Rooker - so intense in Henry: Portrait Of A Serial Killer and so likeable in Cliffhanger - hamming it up to a truly ludicrous degree as lead assassin Robert Marshall in long coat and sourpuss demeanour. His here today, clone tomorrow team of goons are just as bad, cluttering up the film with atrocious arrogance, dumb dialogue and ridiculous attitude. We are supposed to believe - in a film that already demands we accept ultra-quick cloning of deceased pets and covert humans, and sim-pals for kids that are so repulsive even a Leatherface doll would be positively cuddly in comparison - that the big, bad Company running the show chooses to use such camply-dressed, shouty-mouthed buffoons to do its dirty work. I mean these idiots wreck a suburb in their supposedly clandestine mission to eradicate Gibson and are such clumsy shots that they usually wind up shooting each other whenever they are called for duty. In a genre that takes imbecilic henchmen for granted, this gaggle of snarling, inept stooges stick out like a sore thumb. Arnie needs some opposition, someone intimidating to go toe-toe with, not the punk-headed likes of Rod Rowland's petulant Wiley. Even this over-the-hill Arnie that the star, himself, enjoys poking fun at during the film, is let down by the innate naffness of such superficial opposition. Tony Goldwyn fares no better as the nefarious Drucker with one-note charisma and a severe lack of menace. But, worst of all, the once great Robert Duvall, here playing a cloning expert undergoing a major change of heart, is tragically banal and virtually sleepwalks his way through the part as though a cloned version himself, sans any interest in acting whatsoever.

    The set-pieces all lack intensity and come across as purely pedestrian. Barring the car chase that, at least, looks different by virtue of the unusual locations that it plummets through, the money sequences refuse to ignite the detonator on the sticks marked Excitement. A couple of shockingly inept stunt doubles let the side down still further and the finale is as limp as the pay-off to an episode of The A-Team. Even the comedy that Arnie can pull so well is clumsily handled this time out. His exchanges with his clone are mired by having two characters mangling the English language in that thick brogue and the one-liners, rather than being groaningly enjoyable, simply stink. All together now - “I'm all thumbs today!” he explains as he drops said stolen digit on the floor. And his “Go screw yourself,” retort to a major baddie is let down by in the actual pay-off later on when he seems to have forgotten exactly what he'd said in the first place and what he actually meant by it.

    “You read my mind?”

    “Just the highlights.”

    Very often reminiscent of the great Total Recall - the gimmicks of the future, the taxi-ride japes, the appallingly useless baddies, the whole head-scrambling conceit of poor Arnie not knowing what is going on until he barrels his way to the lead villain and even that disgusting Sim-pal Cindy has a head that looks uncannily like the chest-dwelling, animatronic Ku'artu mutant from Mars - The 6th Day shares none of its excitement, cynicism or thought-provocation, which is a great shame as both initial concepts share the same distrustful belief that science in the wrong hands could prove profoundly dangerous. Cloning, if anything, is a more relevant and disturbingly realistic notion, too. Yet Spottiswoode's film relies too heavily on visual gimmicks, shaky science and convenient heroics that adhere to the law of diminishing returns. Let's face it, the car chase early on easily trounces the rooftop skirmish at the end. It is also a bit too hackneyed to have the protagonist as some futuristic helicopter pilot with hidden military skills that he gained in the incredibly crass-sounding “Rain-forest War”. The writers, here, are taking too many contemporary issues to spice-up their story with more moral issues than was strictly necessary. Although it is fair to say that Will Smith's character of Det. Spooner in I, Robot seems somewhat “cloned” from Adam Gibson's template here in The 6th Day. Both seem to abhor the march of progress and the technological advances that are supposedly making their lives - and jobs - easier. Both find themselves going up against the ugly, faceless bogeyman of Big Business like throwbacks in their own era. This genre staple - of having someone in an advanced society acting and behaving as someone with our own ideals - is becoming too old-hat to hold any water and is really just a point of accessibility for audiences who just want to sit back and disengage their brains for awhile. And, of course, this would be okay if the film actually delivered some thrills and rapturous eye-candy to savour en route. But Spottiswoode's film sits itself down squarely on the bottom rung of the ladder and refuses to raise its game. Check out the incredibly dull sequence as one Arnie, or the other (it is easy to lose track, yet strangely hard to care), infiltrates the enemy headquarters and merely holds a guard against a wall and says, most unthreateningly, “Don't do it,” as the minion goes for his gun. What happened to the Arnie of old?

    And what about those guns, eh? Truly awful contraptions that nick the flowery side-flames from Logan's Run and cough out an extremely poor post-production laser-beam that would shame Tom Baker's Doctor Who. The eeriness of the cloning procedure was even done better in Stallone's Judge Dredd - and most of that scene ended up on the cutting-room floor!

    “I might be back.”

    You'll be back!”

    Even as a beer-and-pizza movie, The 6th Day would inspire more yawns than yuks. Everything seems so unexciting and superficial. Arnie manfully gives it all he's got and I do like the sheer number of ideas and concepts that Spottiswoode crams into it - the fridge read-out that schedules things in a much neater way than magnets ever could, the automated cars, the news-bulletins that appear on a bathroom mirror and, of course, the virtual girlfriend that Hank adores - but this is considerably below-par for an action spectacular, with set-pieces that steadfastly refuse to engage the adrenal gland. Funnily enough, Spottiswoode managed to do the same thing with Tomorrow Never Dies - lacklustre villains and a similarly poor vein of episodic action. I feel unfair criticising the film so much as, when all said and done, it is only supposed to be a bit of fun. But, crucially perhaps, this is the precise area where it fails the most. Thus, I can recommend this is for Arnie completists only.

    Please note that this UK disc is encoded for A, B and C regions.