Last of the Monster Kids

Last of the Monster Kids
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Friday, April 24, 2015

SCHWARZENEGGER SWEEPS: The 6th Day (2000)


Even in Arnold Schwarzenegger’s waning years, he wasn’t box office poison. “Eraser” doesn’t get talked about much but it made money. “End of Days” was forgettable but it made money. “Jingle All the Way” and “Batman & Robin” were extended embarrassments but even they made money. What about “The 6th Day?” Wikipedia refers to it as a “box office success.” However, consider this. “The 6th Day” was made for 82 million dollars. It made 116 million. Sure, a 34 million dollar return is nothing to sneeze at.  But it’s hardly a runaway success and less then what the actor’s last four movies made. That “The 6th Day” made any money at all is surprising. It may very well be the nadir of Schwarzenegger’s career, an egregiously awful film that fails in every way.

In the not so distant future, the technology to clone humans exists. However, that particular taboo has been outlawed, though the cloning of animals and organs are okay. Adam Gibson is a family man and a helicopter pilot. When he gets the job to escort cloning mogul Michael Drucker, his life changes. Gibson wakes up in a daze. He heads back home and sees a clone of himself talking to his wife and playing with his daughter. Soon, Gibson is a wanted man, hunted by Drucker’s lackeys. Turns out, Gibson is at the center of a conspiracy involving anti-cloning terrorists, mad science, and shifty corporate crime.

The most immediate question “The 6th Day” leaves me with is not a deep quandary about the purpose of cloning or the existence of the human soul. The burning question is: What the fuck is wrong with Roger Spottiswoode’s direction? “The 6th Day” begins with slow-motion replays of scenes we’ve already seen. Slow-motion is utilized frequently. Slow-motion is tacky in the best of situations. Spottiswoode’s uses it all the damn time. Even unimportant scenes, like a doll flying out a window or Arnold stumbling down some stairs, are in slow-mo. The most annoying thing the director does is the scene transitions. For some god forsaken reason, each time the scene shifts, we cut to an overview shot of a city with digital lines flashing over it. Why? “Terror Train” didn’t look like this. Not even “Tomorrow Never Dies” looked like this. Did Roger Spottiswoode have an aneurism in the editing room? “The 6th Day” looks like total shit and it’s completely inexcusable.

I think “The 6th Day” was attempting to be serious science fiction, exploring the philosophical ramifications of cloning. Instead, it should have gone for the cheese value of having double the Arnold. Van Damme has fought himself, like, four times so its natural Arnie would do it. Disappointingly, “The 6th Day” doesn’t go there. Arnold teams up with himself but that’s not nearly as fun. Even in a shitty movie like this, the Austrian Oak brings his A-game. The one-liners are pretty lame and the action is uninspired but Arnold remains a captivating, physical performer. See the scene where he dangles over a waterfall from a fence. He mugs a little too much but I believe this was a defense mechanism against the lousy screenplay. The weirdest thing about the character Adam Gibson is his character arc. In the opening scene, he’s a family man, flirting with his wife, playing with his kid, and joking with his co-workers. Once the cloning conspiracy is revealed, he’s picking up a laser gun, snapping necks, and running over bad guys. Later on, a short line is dropped about Gibson being a veteran of, ugh, the “Rainforest War.” But the sudden transition from family man to murder machine is startling. And I’m talking about an actor who always plays murder machines.

If people remembering anything about “The 6th Day,” it’s the movie’s hilariously dated version of the future. The very first scene is set at an XFL game. That’s right, the XFL, the bastard off-spring of pro football and pro wrestling that lasted for one season (that’s three months) in 2001. Some of the technology in “The 6th Day” is slightly more plausible then the XFL lasting into the future for any extended amount of time. There are self-driving car, a technology that currently exists. There’s a fridge that tells you when you run out of milk, which you can buy on Amazon. However, the execution is hacky. Since the cars don’t need drivers, the passengers turn to talk to each other in a really awkward fashion. The talking fridge comes off as goofy. An automated 9-1-1 call is plausible but unlikely, and clumsily presented, technology. Then there’s the cloning, which works like fast food. Even in the future, that’s impossible. And what about the weird, helicopter/airplane combos, brought to life by the year 2000’s best CGI? Or the laser guns? Or the prospect of America going to war to defend the rainforest? Yeah, I wouldn’t hold my breath for those.

There’s plenty of unintentional hilarity in “The 6th Day” but don’t think it’s a super somber science fiction film. The movie has comic relief. However, that comic relief is bafflingly awful and usually off-putting. Early on, Gibson’s daughter asks for a SimPal Doll, a robot doll that grows hair and plays like a child. When we meet SimPal Cindy, she’s horrifying. Her face looks like a nightmare combination of Chucky and Lily Cole. That baby from “Twilight” was more convincing. Worst, SimPal Cindy talks, in a weird, mechanical voice. When hurt, she cries. She begs for mercy, to make the hurting stop. I think this is supposed to be funny. It’s deeply, seriously not. Arnold’s best friend in the movie, played by a stoned Michael Rappaport, has a holographic girlfriend. She’s programmed to be as docile, sexual, and subservient as possible, proving that sexism still exist in the future. Also off-putting are the villain’s trio of henchmen, played by Michael Rooker, Terry Crews, and some actress in a blue wig. They have been cloned so often that the bad guy doesn’t care about them. They get their limbs blown and sliced off, limping around on bloody stumps. This would be hilarious in “Dead/Alive” but in a serious sci-fi/action combination, it’s strangely disturbing.

Eventually, “The 6th Day” reaches a balance of staggeringly bad decisions and crappy writing. You get used to the goofy sci-fi technology and the bungled attempts at humor. So the film settles in for a boring last act. There’s a lame attempt at a plot twist. The Arnold we think is the original turns out to the clone. The way to determine a clone is revealed. The bad guy attempts to mind-fuck the hero. This twist becomes even lamer when we discover it’s a trick on Arnold’s behalf. So there’s shoot-out and a last minute ploy by the villain. It’s super tedious. I just watched the movie a half-hour ago and I still don’t really remember the details of it. Safe to say, “The 6th Day” starts out as so-bad-it’s-funny before transforming into so-bad-it’s-dull.

Aside from the creepy doll, the weirdest thing about “The 6th Day” is that it co-stars Robert Duvall. I don’t know how the movie wrangled an Academy Award winner and a former “Godfather” cast member into appearing in it. Duvall’s scenes are very earnest and revolve around his cloned wife dying. Duvall’s role is fairly small and at odds with the movie’s overall tone. He seems very confused about what’s happening. Tony Goldwyn plays the main villain as a snotty, conceited, asshole corporate exec. Goldwyn is a weird choice for the part and never seems comfortable in the film. Experienced character actors like Rapaport and Rooker never let the cracks show but none of them seem entirely sure what to do with the material either.

That “The 6th Day” turned out the way it did required a long series of massive miscalculations on many people’s behalves. It’s not merely a bad movie but a major fiasco. As a science fiction film, it’s seriously laughable. As an action movie, it’s hugely uninspired. As a film about cloning, it doesn’t address the concept in any serious way. As an Arnold Schwarzenegger vehicle, it barely registers. Arnold is arguably the best thing about it but even someone as massively charming as him can’t save this massive creative failure. [2/10]

[THE SIGNS OF SCHWARZENEGGER: 3 outta 5]
[] Performs Ridiculous Feat(s) of Strength
[X] Says, “I’ll be back.”
[X] Shows Off Buffness
[X] Unnecessarily Violent Opponent Dispatch
[] Wields A Big Gun or Sword With One Arm

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