Where's the Action? 'The 6th Day' Simply Lacks Punch

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Where's the Action? 'The 6th Day' Simply Lacks Punch

In Roger Spottiswoode's "The 6th Day," starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, the viewer has the feeling that not only a movie was produced, but more or less an advertisement for futuristic household appliances; similar to what one would see in a commercial or marketing presentation video for the likes of AT&T and Sony. Spottiswoode uses glitzy gadgets and the technological breakthroughs of tomorrow to woo audiences during the first half of the movie, perhaps a bit too much. The result is a movie that begins slowly, so as not to distract the viewer from focusing on the gizmos, but gradually picks up speed as more focus is given to the story line.

Placing "The 6th Day" in juxtaposition with "Total Recall," another Schwarzenegger film, the two seem very similar in their basic, future-oriented ideas and we find Schwarzenegger in the familiar role of an ordinary man faced with extraordinary circumstances. A more noticeable difference is the inclusion of a stellar cast, with appearances by Robert Duvall, Tony Goldwyn and Michael Rapaport.

The story is set in the not too distant future, where smoking is illegal and cloning is protested by a right-wing group called the "extremists." While animal and plant cloning is widely practiced as a way to avoid mass food shortages, human cloning is still highly illegal. Family man Adam Gibson returns home from work one day to find that the unthinkable has happened: a human clone has been made in his image and has taken his place at his own birthday party.

Before he can inspect the problem further, the secret organization guilty of the crime arrives to cover up its mistake, and so begins the hunt to destroy the hero.

Michael Rapaport, who plays Gibson's business partner, is an actor who can play with calculated perfection awkward goofballs with a quirky sense of humor. Here, though, his character is extremely limited by the scope of this film and unfortunately his otherwise offbeat humor, which was best portrayed in "Beautiful Girls" and several Woody Allen movies, is reduced to a few one-liners.

Robert Duvall, without a doubt the most experienced of the movie's actors, plays a scientist caught in an ethical struggle between his work and his life. The thing to notice about him, and all great actors of our times, is that in whatever role he plays one can see the presence of subtext. Subtext, meaning that the viewer notices a deep thought process occurring in the character. In this movie Duvall's role, as well, is too small to be of major significance.

As an action movie, the only character that really plays in tune with the beat of the film is Goldwyn, who portrays the mastermind behind the cloning operation. Best remembered for his role as the infamous betrayer in "Ghost," Goldwyn is once again the essential villain - pseudo-intellectual, cutthroat and ice-cold with practicality.

Arnold Schwarzenegger himself has definitely become a more accomplished actor. At times his lines are stated convincingly and, surprisingly, he doesn't seem too out of place under the scrutiny of the camera with acting veterans like Duvall.

So while the movie had all the makings for a hit - an innovative plot, a star cast, good interaction between the characters and bits of humor - what is lacking is basic attention to the whole premise of this type of film: action. "The 6th Day" utilizes excellent computer graphics for holograms and physical metamorphosis, but computer graphics combined with the director's futuristic visions of everyday life are simply not enough to carry a movie; a TV show perhaps, but definitely not a full -length feature film.

Most action lovers will compare every action movie from now until the next millennium to "The Matrix." Why? Because "The Matrix" combined similar computer graphics with such well-developed fight scenes that the result was nothing short of awe.

True, most every fight scene ever produced is to some degree implausible, but if it's done artistically (meaning that the viewer exclaims, "Cool...") it is a success. Here, the fight scenes are so blase that the viewer keeps hoping some sort of saving grace will intervene. Don't wait too long.

In this movie, the fighting and explosions are done with so little realism that the implausible simply remains implausible, instead of being carried over into fantastical imagination.


by Joseph Kim

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