Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Roger Spottiswoode
Stars: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Tony Goldwyn, Michael Rooker, Robert Duvall, Sarah Wynter, Michael Rapaport, Wendy Crewson, Rod Rowland, Terry Crews, Ken Pogue, Colin Cunningham, Taylor Anne-Reid.
The first mainstream Hollywood film since The Boys From Brazil to tackle the controversial issue of cloning, The 6th Day is a spectacular looking, but ultimately rather silly big budget special effects driven sci-fi thriller. The 6th Day also heralds the return of Arnold Schwarzenegger to the futuristic sci-fi thriller genre in which he has made his mark over the years (Terminator, Total Recall, etc).
As with many other sci-fi thrillers, The 6th Day is a cautionary tale about technology out of control and in the hands of the unscrupulous and powerful. But it also dresses its immediate themes up in the guise of a cliched, formulaic fast-paced chase thriller which will appeal to Schwarzenegger fans.
In the not too distant future, cloning of humans has been outlawed. But ruthless and ambitious millionaire entrepreneur Michael Drucker (Tony Goldwyn, from Ghost, etc) has found a way around the technicalities and legalities. Scientist Griffin Weir (Robert Duvall), who has a personal stake in developing a successful method of cloning humans, has perfected the technology of cloning, which he makes available at a price. But when Drucker and Weir mistakenly clone charter pilot Adam Gibson (Schwarzenegger) their whole enterprise is threatened. Drucker employs his own private hit squad to silence any potential threats to his ambition, and they target Gibson and his family. Eventually, Gibson, a veteran of the Rainforest Wars, is forced to work with his clone to defeat Drucker. Fans will get two Schwarzeneggers for the price of one.
While The 6th Day explores many of the moral and ethical issues surrounding human cloning, the film does not become bogged down in polemics or philosophical discussions. Rather, director Roger Spottiswoode (Air America, the Bond thriller Tomorrow Never Dies, etc) keeps the action moving at a rapid pace that never allows audiences time to consider some of the more implausible elements of the plot. This is essentially a chase thriller, and as such is quite exciting, although it does drag on a little too long. The scene is set for lots of chases and carnage, laced with plenty of trade mark throwaway humour and droll one-liners.
In some ways, The 6th Day has some superficial similarities with Total Recall, another futuristic thriller in which Schwarzenegger played a man trying to recover his identity while hunted by assassins in the hire of a ruthless business entrepreneur. But Spottiswoode lacks Paul Verhoeven’s bold imagination, ruthless pacing, and visual flair, and The 6th Day is a competent thriller without being groundbreaking. The editing and special effects that enable the two Schwarzeneggers to interact are quite superbly done.
The 6th Day is a return to form for Schwarzenegger, whose last few films have below the standard one expects from Hollywood’s premier action star. While he is comfortable with the demands of the film, the rest of the solid cast are merely going through the motions with their one-dimensional characters. For Duvall, his lacklustre performance here was obviously a case of take the money and run. Aussie actress Sarah Wynter makes the most of her role as one of Drucker’s unstoppable assassins, while Michael Rapaport adds some comic touches with his performance as Gibson’s partner.