The Sixth Day
2000, PG-13, 124 min. Directed by Roger Spottiswoode. Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Tony Goldwyn, Robert Duvall, Michael Rapaport, Michael Rooker, Saran Wynter, Wendy Crewson, Rodney Rowland.
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Nov. 17, 2000
The opening credits tell us that The 6th Day is set “sometime in the near future … sooner than you think.” The future, hopefully, will prove that wrong, though living in a society with refrigerators that keep you posted about the current state of your milk supply does have an undeniably interesting cachet. Either way, the future posited by husband-and-wife screenwriting team Cormac and Marianne Wibberly has a nastiness lurking at its center in the form of illegal human clones. Billionaire bad boy Michael Drucker (Goldwyn) and scientist Dr. Weir (Duvall) are secretly cloning certain members of the elite to do their bidding. At least, I think that's what the backstory was -- the film is nothing if not overboard with its exposition. Whatever the case may be, Adam Gibson (Schwarzenegger), a family man and futuristic helicopter (sorry, “whisper-craft”) pilot, stumbles into the nefarious goings-on when -- surprise! -- he's cloned after (or maybe during) a mysterious fugue state. Returning home to his wife Natalie (Crewson) and kids, he finds them already celebrating his birthday, and he's not even in the house yet! Yes, the clone has beaten him to the punch, and Gibson suddenly finds himself on the run from Drucker's team of killer clones, who need to finish him off to keep their secret under wraps. Synopsis alone cannot do justice to the Wibberlys' serpentine scripting; there are more confusing tangles of identity in The 6th Day than really necessary, with the result being that audiences are likely to be puzzled at just what the hell is going on. Predictably, the last third of the film attempts to wrap up all these loose ends in a neat little package, but it fails miserably. What little fun -- and I use the term loosely -- there is in The 6th Day comes from Schwarzenegger himself, who increasingly seems to be parodying his übermensch stylings as his career plows forward. Here, he's all winks and glaringly white grins: “Look at me, folks, ain't I a gasser?” he seems to be saying. At least, that's what it feels like. Schwarzenegger, the actor, is consistently manic throughout, with a staplegun smile and a perpetually intense overcast to his features. If this were my dad, I'd seriously consider staying at least three good strides from arm's length at all times. And when the actor tries to play nice with family and friends, it's as though he's internally debating when the next chance to fire a laser pistol will arrive. Scary. Director Spottiswoode is the man behind 1997's Bond adventure Tomorrow Never Dies, which struck me as a great popcorn thrill ride. His first film, 1980's Terror Train, was one of the initial slasher pics, a minor genre entry not noted for much more than Jamie Lee Curtis' mighty lung power. The 6th Day falls somewhere in between these two extremes, neither as awful as it could have been (almost, though) nor the ass-kicking sci-fi thriller it aspires to be. It's mediocrity at its most unremarkable, where even the green-screen and CGI effects look slightly tired and washed out. If this is the future, you can keep it.