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SIXTH DAY, THE(director: Roger Spottiswoode; screenwriters: Cormac Wibberley /Marianne Wibberley; cinematographer: Pierre Mignot; editors: Mark Conte/Dominique Fortin/ Michel Arcand; cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger (Adam Gibson), Tony Goldwyn (Drucker), Robert Duvall (Dr. Weir), Michael Rapaport (Hank), Michael Rooker (Robert Marshall, Drucker’s main henchman), Sarah Wynter (Talia), Wendy Crewson (Natalie, Mrs. Gibson), Taylor Anne Reid (Clara, Adam’s daughter), Rodney Rowland (Wile), Colin Cunningham (Tripp), Steve Bacic (Johnny Phoenix), Wanda Cannon(Katherine Weir); Runtime: 124; Columbia; 2000)
“A rehashed formula action/sci-fi film.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A rehashed formula action/sci-fi film. It looks old hat, even as it advances the sophisticated problems cloning might eventually hold. Maybe it’s because the film tried to be both preachy about its social conscience message and at the same time your typical Arnold Schwarzenegger action film that it looked so confused, seeming as fuzzy and as unbelievable as the instant cloning process introduced. Though, it passes the test for mild escapist fare and to the bargain you have two Arnold’s saying lame one-liners for the price of one movie ticket.

Arnold’s comeback from health problems can be declared over but it cannot hide the fact that he has aged and seems more weary and unsure of himself, not quite the super-hero he once was. But, even if this film is not as good as his “Total Recall” or “True Lies” or even “Terminator 2,” it should be good enough to be accepted by his loyal following. How it will do in the box office and with the general public is hard to say as the film seems gloomily cluttered with nocturnal shots and the action is less than spectacular, and it is not as stylish as some other recent popular action films (eg. The Matrix). Arnold still likes to do things the old-fashioned way, by knocking heads in times of difficulty. And, how the public will respond to the aging Arnold saving the world from an evil clone manufacturer who is merely a greedy businessman and not a super-villain, in a PG-13 film without an edge, is anyone’s guess, especially, since Arnold’s popularity is slipping. In this film he is asked to carry the load, though helped somewhat that the film is well executed, has good enough special effects and a semi-plausible cloning theme.

Cloning is evil mainly because it is used by a shady biotech corporation head Mr. Drucker (Goldwyn), a slimy, reptilian character, who by means of illegal clonings has become the richest man in the world. He is consumed with accumulating more wealth and with getting politicians to change their vote to make cloning legal for humans. It is now only legal to clone pets and to clone animals to restock the food supply. It is banned for humans by a so-called “6th-day” law.

Dr. Graham Weir (Duvall) is a mad genius scientist that Drucker’s corporation financially backs to do its secret illegal clones. Weir is someone who is in it for the knowledge and the love of his wife. She died five years ago but is now cloned thanks to him, but is dying of cancer and refuses another clone. For him, there is nothing higher than human love. He’s the most interesting one in the film, so it behooves me that he has a truncated part: a good scientist used by an evil businessman.

The first example of cloning comes in the film’s opening scene where a star football player on a team owned by Drucker, with a lifetime contract of $300 million a season, is brain-dead after a football injury. Marshall (Michael Rooker), one of Drucker’s henchmen, says, before pulling the plug on Johnny’s life-support system: “We have a lifetime contract with a vegetable. Johnny–you’re gonna have to take one for the team.” A cloned Johnny then reappears as a star quarterback again. The corporation can clone you in no time at all, if they have your genetic code. The cost is only a mere one and a half million bucks.

In the next scene we see that Adam Gibson (Schwarzenegger) is a nice, peaceful family man, living a normal suburban life with his doting wife Natalie (Wendy Crewson) and his playful daughter. He’s a charter-helicopter pilot who is partners with the free-wheeling, comical, bachelor named Hank (Michael Rapaport). Hank has the perfect girl via ‘virtual reality.’ They have been hired to airlift Drucker to a skiing slope and the only catch and it turns out to be a big catch, is that Hank and him have to undergo a special blood, fingerprinting and eye test on Drucker’s special machines. Drucker will use this info gathered later on for cloning purposes.

Adam’s big problem at home comes when he learns that their daughter’s pet dog Oliver dies; his daughter can’t live without her pet. The wife wants the dog cloned at RePet? But this is against his religious principles. He thinks there’s something wrong about messing with the natural order of life and death because he’s just an old-fashioned guy. He prefers his 1950ish Caddy over the modern automatic car that drives itself. He also endears himself to those old-fashioned family values of how to raise a child and blames the media for showing too much graphic violence. But he seems to have a selective opinion on when to use high-tech, because on his job he seems to be all for high-tech — using a remote control to fly one of his other helicopters.

Hank pilots Drucker by posing as Adam, so Adam can go to a RePet store for a cloned dog and to then attend a surprise birthday party his wife is throwing for him. But a fanatical anti-cloning fundamentalist (Colin Cunningham) executes the pilot and Drucker. Thinking that Adam and Drucker died and nobody will be the wiser, Weir decides to clone them. When Adam peeks into his house at his birthday party, there is another Adam blowing out the candles on his birthday cake — one who looks just like him. He is then met by the most persistent villains on Drucker’s goon squad trying to eliminate him (Sarah Wynter and Rodney Rowland) to cover up their cloning mistake. Their claim to fame is that they keep getting killed by Arnold but keep coming back, unfortunately this lengthens the film to over two hours with no apparent discernible plusses.

After seeing that his family has accepted the clone as him, the dazed Adam is on the run from Drucker’s goons and in search of the truth and has to put up with the knowledge that there are a lot of clones around and that the one who looks like him is sleeping with his wife. He also finds out, to his amazement, that even Drucker is a clone.

The film lets go of its pseudo-science pretenses and turns back to Arnold in the action-hero mode, of him getting revenge on those who dare to mess with him and his family. It’s all been seen before, but the film seems easy to take or leave, and is only mildly offensive to both those who like their films with a bit more intelligence and those who prefer a lot more rough action. This film will live and die not by its story, but by what you think of its action scenes. I thought they were good enough in a functional sense, but there were just too many dead spots in the story.

REVIEWED ON 11/24/2000 GRADE: C+

Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”