Genre Splicing Goes Awry
By Dan Via
Special to The Washington Post
Friday, November 17, 2000
Robert Duvall in an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie about human cloning? Surely this most intelligent of actors did it only for the money, perhaps hoping to finance another small-scale indie gem like "The
Apostle." Or, could it be that he simply found "The 6th Day," well,
kind of interesting?
Ah-nuld gets duplicated in "The 6th Day."
(Columbia Tristar Pictures)
"The 6th Day" is
kind of interesting. And that's ultimately why it doesn't work.
Cormac and Marianne Wibberley's script conscientiously raises all the
salient moral and ethical questions and offers soundbite summaries of
the pros and cons. It then proceeds to demonstrate without undue
subtlety that human cloning is very very wrong and its advocates are
very very bad, deserving to get various limbs broken and/or blown off.
Let's not forget who the real star is here, after all.
Schwarzenegger is Adam Gibson, devoted family man, ace helicopter
pilot and owner of an extreme adventure outfitting business. When his
daughter's beloved pooch buys the farm, Gibson finds himself in a dilemma: Does he haul Fido's carcass to the "RePet" outlet in the local mall and take advantage of now-commonplace
animal cloning technology? Or does he risk breaking the little girl's
heart by sticking to his antiquated notion of God's will?
A man of principle, Gibson decides that a dead dog is best dealt with the old-fashioned way:
with a few tears and a solemn doggie burial in the back yard. Yet,
within a few short hours, both dog and owner will be genetically
copied. The former is regenerated at the behest of Gibson's wife
(Wendy Crewson), who knows her man won't do it. The latter is
replicated as the result of a mix-up at the hands of RePet's sinister
CEO, Michael Drucker (Tony Goldwyn), and his chief scientist,Graham Weir (Duvall).
Drucker, secretly trafficking in human cloning despite a ban imposed
by the so-called "6th Day Law" (a reference to the creation of man as
told in Genesis), is the target of an assassination attempt while on
one of Gibson's adventures. Their pilot is killed so Weir, fearful of
the unwanted scrutiny accompanying any investigation, clones a
replacement Gibson from genetic material and memory data retrieved during a faux
physical. Too bad the dead pilot was actually Gibson's buddy, Hank (Michael Rapaport). Now there are two Gibsons wandering about. And, if the clone is discovered, Drucker and Weir's
secret will be out.
The rest of the movie follows Gibson's efforts to avoid getting iced
by Drucker's henchmen and to reclaim his life from the usurping clone. By now, the Schwarzenegger
action formula is pretty well established: A little sci-fi, a lot of
weaponry and a few painfully marble-mouthed witticisms lobbed at
freshly vanquished bad guys. "The 6th Day" features all of the above
plus timely philosophical issues and honest-to-god tasteful acting
from Goldwyn, Duvall and Wanda Cannon as Weir's dying wife. An even
greater surprise: Michael Rapaport is actually appealing as the stock
likable lout best friend.
These extras may lend a tonier-than-expected sheen to the
proceedings, but they also undercut the excitement the standard by
which this kind of film is judged. Schwarzenegger's "Eraser" was
flat-out dumb, but it was also a hoot. Within that film's cartoony
context, the over-the-top chases, amplified violence and cheap
one-liners were almost thrilling. In the classier "6th Day," these
same elements cause discomfort. Moreover, director Roger Spottiswoode
seems unable to squeeze sufficient juice out of his set pieces. The
intense three-minute preview for the upcoming mountaineering thriller
"Vertical Limit" got more of a reaction from the audience than anything in the main attraction.
Schwarzenegger and company should be commended for trying to avoid
making yet another action-movie clone. (Sorry.) However, "The 6th Day"
is neither smart nor exciting enough to justify the effort. It just
goes to prove that, in genre filmmaking, it doesn't always pay to mess
with the basic DNA.
"The Sixth Day" (PG-13, 124 minutes) Contains profanity, graphic violence and brief nudity.