A Review of The Sixth Day

00:00 Sun 19 Nov 2000. Updated: 19:45 03 Dec 2006
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Arnold Schwarzenegger wakes up to find that something’s strangely different about his world, and finds he is the unwitting key in a struggle involving an unsavory organization. He discovers that his very identity is under threat, and that this identity is crucially important to people who really don’t have his best interests at heart. Finding this out, he utters the famous line “If I’m not me, then who the hell am I”—;oops. Wrong movie. That was Total Recall, an excellent 1990 Paul Verhoeven film. Both films star Schwarzenegger in the above plotline, more or less, but there the similarity ends.

The Sixth Day starts out looking like out-takes from Any Given Sunday and pretty much goes downhill from there. The basic plot is that Arnie’s been cloned by accident, and since cloning humans is illegal, his existence is a threat to the group that cloned him. So, they have to kill him. There are some nice aspects to this movie, like the (very very) end, but by and large it’s immensely predictable and lacks tension. It’s a fairly confused film, and doesn’t know what it wants to be. At times it seems to reach for the Total Recall end of the spectrum, but then pulls back to mainstream half-hearted thriller. The bad guys are played for somewhat ghoulish laughs some of the time, which might work better in a different film. One interesting touch was that the black hats seem to treat everything they encounter as a spectacle laid on for their enjoyment, suggesting a possibly subtle point about the nature of entertainment and reality, but that never goes anywhere. The other pointed pieces about the reality of experience and of what it is to be human are forced, awkward, and uninteresting.

Visually the film isn’t great either. There are some attempts to play with transitions over time, but that’s about it. Some stuff was definitely just thrown in there for effect (like a race through a canyon in an aircraft) and as such lacked any tension at all.

None of the actors seemed to be able to do anything with their roles. Robert Duvall looked as if he was playing it all by the numbers. Tony Goldwyn, as the main villain, didn’t have any presence at all and seemed terribly flat. However, it’s probably not fair to blame him for that—no-one else seemed to have any impact on screen either.

Perhaps most damning for an action film, the action sequences themselves were predictable and humdrum, and furthermore seemed off somehow. It was like watching action from a bad TV show, except with more money for explosions. It’s hard to say exactly what was wrong with it, but it was all unconvincing and seemed badly staged.

In case you’d missed the point thus far: don’t go see it. If you want to see good sci-fi about the nature of humanity, identity and reality, I suggest Blade Runner (the Director’s cut), The Terminator, Total Recall, and The Matrix (to name a few). No matter how many times you’ve seen them, watching them again will be more enjoyable than seeing The Sixth Day.

(This review, in very slightly different form, was originally posted to Cached when I was a Quake 3 Arena columnist for that site.)

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