Unless I’m mistaken, this is the second Schwarzenegger flick in a row (after the apocalyptic bomb “End of Days”) to begin with a scriptural quotation. Given the extraordinarily low quality of both, perhaps a humble prayer would be more appropriate next time around.
“The 6th Day” is an elaborate chase story involving cloning, with the big fella as the duplicated man. As such one might dismiss it simply by observing that it’s just about twice as bad as most of Ahnold’s earlier efforts (the exception always being the hellish “Days,” which was in a class by itself), but that really doesn’t go far enough. “End of Days” was lousy, but it stank gloriously–there was a doomed grandiosity about it that was quite amazing and unforgettable. This new film is terrible in a much more ordinary, everyday fashion; a good deal of it has a stale, familiar ring, as though it had itself been cloned from innumerable earlier pictures, including some of Schwarzenegger’s own vehicles. There are innumerable big action set-pieces, but they invariably come across as raggedly staged and tediously overextended (and, sad to say, Arnold is looking a bit long in the tooth to persuade us to suspend our disbelief during them). Still, they’re superior to the more intimate familial interludes–our hero, you see, has a loving wife and pre-teen daughter–in which Schwarzenegger has to act the part of amiable hubby and dad. Simply put, the star’s thespic abilities aren’t up to the task. Saddled with dialogue and situations that would have been lame even on “Eight Is Enough,” he fumbles and squints his way through these moments, exhibiting all the prowess of a beginning drama student about to flunk out. As for the sequences toward the close when he’s compelled to play scenes with himself via the usual camera trickery, one can only observe that there hasn’t been such a concentrated dose of bad acting since that other well-muscled lummox, Jean-Claude Van Damme, did the lookalike bit in 1991’s “Double Impact” and 1996’s “Maximum Risk.”
The plot of “The 6th Day” is a fairly convoluted one set in the near future (allowing for a few clever holographic oddities in the background). The inevitably-named Adam Gibson (Schwarzenegger) is the owner of a charter helicopter service which attends to the needs of such super-rich clients as a mogul named Drucker (Tony Goldwyn). Drucker directs a cloning enterprise active in duplicating animals and plants under the direction of master scientist Graham Weir (Robert Duvall, in another of the periodic “Just Hand Over the Paycheck” roles which finance his own projects), and although human cloning is forbidden by law, the firm is surreptitiously engaged in it. Gibson finds himself (for complicated reasons explained toward the close) one of the experimental subjects, and as he tries to take his life back he’s pursued endlessly by several of Drucker’s incredibly inept thugs, played with near-farcical broadness by Michael Rooker, Sarah Wynter and Rodney Rowland. Also involved are the seemingly ubiquitous Michael Rapaport (the male version this fall, it would seem, of Charlize Theron in terms of multiple appearances) as Adam’s flyboy partner, and Wendy Crewson as Gibson’s spouse, who will–of course–become a captured pawn as the skullduggery grinds on.
It would be a dull, probably hopeless business to try to unravel the threads of the narrative concocted by Cormac and Marianne Wibberley; suffice it to say that by the last half-hour (the picture runs over 120 minutes), one aches for the twists to end and the thing just to be over. (It doesn’t help that a cloning story necessarily means that characters can be resurrected an almost unlimited number of times, meaning that irritating people you were glad to see get bumped off early on have a habit of reappearing, to audience groans). It doesn’t help that the film is hardly easy on the eye, suffering from a dull, washed-out color scheme that drains the action of whatever visual excitement it might have once possessed. And the direction of Roger Spottiswoode, who over a long career has made one exceptional film (1983’s “Under Fire”) and scores of mediocre ones) but has recently redeemed himself with the cable features “And the Band Played On,” “Hiroshima” and “Noriega,” is sluggish and unfocused, much as it was in the turgid 1997 Bond flick, “Tomorrow Never Dies.”
Schwarzenegger’s movies, of course, usually boast a hoped-for catch phrase uttered by the star. We all remember “I’ll be back” and “Hasta la vista, baby.” It’s symptomatic of the depths to which he’s sunk here (and disheartening to boot) that the apparent entry in “The 6th Day” is, with all apologies to the accent, “Go fug yourself.” Unfortunately, after sitting through this mess it’s a sentiment viewers might want most to express to the star himself.