I picked this film to write about because I wrote the retro for the futuristic Bruce Willis film Surrogates. The 6th Day (which came out many a year before) is the closest thing in Arnie’s filmography to the Willis sci-fi flick. Along with Sly’s Demolition Man, those are three flicks that would probably make a get trio box-set or night out at the flicks.
Here we have a world where it is possible to clone human beings, but also illegal. That doesn’t stop the bad guys. Arnie comes home one day to discover that he has in fact been cloned! It turns out this is an accident, a mix-up as a result of a job Arnie was supposed to do. Instead, his business partner (Michael Rapaport) took on the job in his name (after Rapaport’s character is murdered he is replaced by a clone – but because he was using Arnie’s name Arnie got cloned instead). It is highly improbably a mix-up, because you’d think they would have checked the size and look of the new clone compared to the dead body first before sending him out into the world!
There is another cock-up during the scene immediately before Arnie’s character gets home. It involves his purchase of a rubber doll instead of a clone of his dead dog … actually, never mind.
Anyway that confusion out the way –once ”the real” Arnie has made this discovery he is then chased after by a group of henchmen for the most part of the middle of the film while he uncovers all the facts. This gang are lead by Michael Rooker (we’ll also see him in Van Damme’s clone thriller Replicant) and includes Terry Crewes (The Expendables).
The twist in the tale turns out that “the real” Arnold is the clone. It’s hardly a shock and doesn’t really have any impact on proceedings, but fair play for trying.
I don’t know if Schwarzenegger was feeling a bit of Van Damme envy with all the double Arnie onscreen action here, but he at least avoided beating himself up (aside from one slug). Only Van Damme would actually beat himself up for real.
Tony Goldwyn plays the main villain. He may be a bit stiff, but he really gets to show it off when he is mortally wounded and has to clone himself to continue living. His clone wakes and immediately starts to strip the dying version of itself not only of his clothes, but also of his dignity – which is pretty heartbreaking for the dying guy that he can’t get any compassion even from himself. Nice touch and a good way to make us loathe the character all the more.
Robert Duvall pops up in an interesting role that perhaps is at the heart of the cloning issue: as a scientist who has been repeatedly cloning his own wife (who suffers from a nasty disease that keeps coming back to bump her off).
So, like Surrogates, the film raises many important and interesting questions, has a few scenes of decent action, and yet is held back from being a Philip K. Dick-esque thriller for what reason? It’s hard to tell, but there are a few contributing factors. The script needs work, and it’s been watered down to fit the action mould. The direction is in a bit of a hurry. The effects are wanting. But none of these things seem to be the real problem. Perhaps if they spent more time at the heart of the issue we may have had something a little more memorable. I do like The 6th Day but it lacks the compassion that perhaps Cameron had when he did the Terminator films.