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6th Day, The Print E-mail
Tuesday, 01 July 2008
ImageIt is an unspecified date in the near future.  War veteran Adam Gibson (Arnold Schwarzenegger) runs a high-end helicopter charter service catering to a rich clientele.  In order to run their next charter, their client, powerful biotechnology executive Michael Drucker (Tony Goldwyn), requires Adam and his partner, Hank (Michael Rappaport), take a quick, high-tech drug test.  As it is Adam’s birthday, Hank offers to run the charter for him, allowing him to take the rest of the day off.  When he arrives home that night, he finds that his birthday party has begun without him, but peering through the window, he sees an exact duplicate of himself celebrating in his place.  Before Adam is able to interrupt this surreal scene, he is attacked by Robert Marshall (Michael Rooker) and his cronies.  After a series of chases and escapes, Adam uncovers the truth: Drucker has been cloning human beings in violation of the “6th day” laws and during Drucker’s charter flight, he was assassinated by anti-cloning activists, as was Hank.  Because they presumed Adam was the pilot, not Hank, they cloned the wrong man (both of their DNA was taken in the bogus drug tests) and now have to kill one of the two Adams to keep their cloning operations a secret. 

At the same time, Doctor Griffin Weir (Robert Duvall), the scientist responsible for the groundbreaking technology enabling Drucker’s company to rapidly clone a person within a few hours, begins to have doubts about the ethics of what they’re doing.  When his wife dies, he decides he must terminate the cloning program, much to the anger of Michael Drucker.

“The 6th Day” is a technically polished but ultimately underwhelming action film.  A financial disappointment at the box office, it was undoubtedly harmed by audience confusion between the similarly titled sleeper hit, “The Sixth Sense,” even though the two films have completely different storylines.  The script loses steam after about an hour and Duvall’s story concludes around the halfway mark, but the primary liability is the miscasting of Arnold Schwarzenegger.  The way the role is written makes it more appropriate for an actor with greater range, not an action star.  It needs someone who could believably play an everyman out of his depth with the situation; that would give the audience some sense of suspense about what the final outcome would be.  In a Schwarzenegger film, we know exactly who will be left standing in the end.  Special effects are fine, but some seem a little unfinished, such as the helicopters that don’t seem to properly display the differences in lighting as they fly around the screen.  The film also makes excellent use of picturesque Canadian locations; the cloning company’s headquarters is a beautiful futuristic-looking building.  The film has clearly been toned down in editing and in staging, in order to gain a PG-13 rating, which makes the action and violence toothless and tame.  If anything, the participation of Schwarzenegger should have made them rethink the action scenes, and designed them to be more intense and graphic.  (Think how much more shocking it would be to have Adam see a character reappear after he’s been graphically blown apart.)  The black comedy moments, such as the scene where Rooker tries to convince the cops that one of his freshly killed henchmen is only unconscious, are highlights, and the film could use more of them.  The above-mentioned scene would have been funnier if the setup for it, featuring Arnold breaking the guy’s neck, had actually included the sound of his neck cracking.  Instead, it appears that Arnold grapples with him until he falls unconscious, the sound effect absent to avoid an “R” rating. 

Story elements are introduced that go nowhere, like the murder and cloning of Hank, a sequence that sets up a politician who is willing to push for a bill to repeal the 6th day laws, and the investigation of the police, who join Marshall and his henchman to find Adam in one sequence and are never heard from again, even though there’s a constant piling up of bodies in public places and mayhem occurring in very visible locations. 

It’d be impossible to overstate how intensely creepy the anamatronic  doll “Simpal Cindy” is.  Presumably meant to be sickeningly cute and charming, her facial design and expressions are the stuff of nightmares and, while not intended to be so, she’s much scarier than “Chucky.”  As far as creepy dolls go, she’s one notch below the Zuni doll from “Trilogy of Terror.”  Sadly, Cindy is dispatched fairly early, though one expects her to pop up again, and she probably should have.

Arnold is clearly showing his age in this one, and he frequently looks tired.  His wrinkles and age lines contrast with the youthful energy he tries to project.  Duvall’s role feels underwritten, and ultimately pointless, but he’s able to convey his character’s conflict without losing sympathy.  Michael Rooker and his two henchmen are inept boobs and clearly not worth the 1.2 million dollars that we are told it costs to clone them every time they are killed on the job.   Evil businessman Drucker must use the same henchman personnel agency Gene Hackman’s Lex Luthor does.  Rooker seems to cue in to the black comedy present in the film and plays his role somewhat over-the-top and is enjoyably goofy at times.

The Blu-ray release offers a fair upgrade from standard definition.  Close-ups are often crisp and full of fine detail, particularly Schwarzenneger’s where every wrinkle and bit of stubble is visible, but medium and wider shots, while stable, are somewhat soft, which may indicate information discarded in compression or a bump up from an older 1080i master.  The image offers enough detail to allow one to spot Schwarzenegger’s stunt doubles, though. The uncompressed TrueHD 5.1 track is clean and crisp.  It’s a front-focused mix with minimal surround usage, but it’s used effectively in the clone tank sequence.  Bass is weak and unsatisfying.

The BD ports over the standard def bonuses, which consists of a series of featurettes, a Showtime special, animatics, etc.  The Showtime special runs 15 minutes and is the most comprehensive promo piece included, but it is standard talking heads EPK stuff.  The featurettes focus on single aspects of the production or special effects.  As such, they’re mostly geared toward techies, and there’s almost no discussion on the ideas or the science behind the film or the director and screenwriter’s intentions.  While an annoying trailer build is included, after an overly prolonged disc load time, the original theatrical trailers are not included.

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