Reviewed by Nick Nunziata
Directed by Roger (Turner & Hooch, Tomorrow Never Dies) Spottiswoode
Starring Arnold (Commando, Predator) Schwarzenegger, Robert (The Godfather, Tender Mercies) Duvall, Tony (Ghost, Kuffs) Goldwyn, Wendy (What Lies Beneath, Air Force One) Crewson, Michael (JFK, The Replacement Killers) Rooker, Sarah (Lost Souls, Species 2) Wynter, Michael (Copland, Higher Learning) Rapaport
It’s the future, and cloning is a part of everyday life. Pets that end up on the business end of a speeding car or salmon needed to stave off world hunger are genetically created to prolong the species we call MAN…
So far, so good.
But what about people? Illegal. We are told that the only attempt at human cloning went horribly awry, thus resulting in the practice of cloning humans being called OFF LIMITS.
Referring to the Bible passage describing the creation of man, The Sixth Day gets us up to speed with a flashy whirlygig of an intro that tells us how cloning techniques shifted from our famous sheep “Dolly” to a world where companies like RE-PET pull a Herbert West on our furry friends while you wait. It’s pretty cool stuff, and even though it goes the braindead way of handing you the exposition in an easy to digest chewable aspirin, it somehow works.
Then the film begins, and some chinks in the armor immediately appear.
First of all, considering how far FX have come and the sheer brilliance of futuristic set design on films ranging from The Matrix to The Fifth Element to 12 Monkeys, this film looks really shoddy in comparison. Apparently, while a lot of everyday items (razors, mirrors, and refrigerators) have become advanced, our cars look like the same vehicles with a few new parts slapped on. Also, the look and performance of the aircraft here reek of CGI, and let’s not even mention the laser beams…
A science fiction film has to hold its own visually to compete, especially one with a hefty budget like this. Look at the low budget GATTACA or even some of Terry Gilliam’s films and realize you can make a little bit of money go a long way with inventiveness and savvy. With a strong idea like this film has, a really solid look could have made the film really stand out. Instead it makes the appropriate cheesiness of TOTAL RECALL look like high art.
We then meet our principals. Arnold plays Adam Gibson, a man whose life revolves around his family and his flight charter business (which he runs with Michael Rapaport, a match that could exist only in fiction). Sporting the same accent we expect from Arnold, he’s a likable enough amalgam of his earlier roles, but not an overly compelling guide through the futuristic realm of The 6th Day.
Things go awry, and before you can say “Maximum Risk Double Impact”, there’s two Arnolds running around and one is a Xerox.
With a supporting cast with names like Duvall, Rooker, and Tony Goldwyn, you’d expect a lot of the hard work to be taken care of. Even with seasoned actors this material begs for either a rewrite or an overhaul. The idea is good, but instead of being a really smart film, it echoes films you’d expect to see at 4am on cable during the “Tim Thomerson Marathon”.
It’s a shame, because there’s a lot of potential here. The battle between what’s right and WHOSE RIGHT it is makes for good drama, but every time you see things building up, we break for an action scene or some “clever” poke at how things are different in the future. That’s the sign of a filmmaker not trusting his/her ability to create a genre film that will endure.
There are some good aspects: The idea of villains that can have “extra lives” through cloning is an untapped well. The debate on where mankind should draw the line with the ability to shape life is one that is being asked already. There is some spooky imagery of the unliving husks used to create clones, and in the right hands this would be a lot more akin to TERMINATOR than ERASER.
Somewhere underneath the surface lies a terrific cautionary tale.
The bad: The effects (for the most part). An overwhelming surplus of “I’m just here to pay the bills” performances from the cast. Overabundant jokes, and what has to be the most scary, repulsive, and freakish child’s toy ever invented. Think of Kuato from TOTAL RECALL mating with CHUCKY and you’re still not prepared. Horrific!
Overall, another sad installment in the unfortunate tailspin of the once impregnable career of Maria Shriver’s love slave.
5.9 out of 10