The 6th Day

Wearing the hungry, defeated expression that's been a fixture ever since Junior, Arnold Schwarzenegger stars in The 6th Day, a high-concept/low-voltage science-fiction thriller about a hotshot helicopter pilot whose decision to take on billionaire client Tony Goldwyn leads to dire, explosion-enhanced consequences. Believing Schwarzenegger to have been killed in an assassination attempt on Goldwyn, the mogul's company attempts to avoid an ugly incident by cloning him. Once it becomes clear that the world now contains two Schwarzeneggers, one becomes a hunted man, leading his corporate antagonists on a desperate chase across a 21st-century landscape that includes such unlikely developments as holographic sex partners, automatic cars, and a sports world dominated by XFL Football. Early scenes that believably flesh out this indeterminate "near future" suggest far more promise than the film itself can deliver; it's the sort of speculative world that, XFL aside, seems plausibly rooted in the present and demands more attention because of it. But every other aspect of the film appears based in the recent past, a sort of permanent 1987 in which the sight of Schwarzenegger grimacing while shooting a gun held an inherent fascination. And shoot he does. But rather than the usual hardware, director Roger Spottiswoode (Tomorrow Never Dies, Turner And Hooch) equips him with unimpressive laser pistols, throws in some goopy special effects for good measure, and buries both in Pierre Mignot's gloomy cinematography and a story that flies off the rails before it leaves the station. Abandoning any discussion of the issues surrounding cloning around the time it abandons ubiquitous supporting actor Michael Rapaport, The 6th Day gives its audience plenty of time to contemplate this question: Which is more dispiriting, watching Schwarzenegger play scenes opposite a slumming Robert Duvall, or watching him play scenes opposite himself?

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