Eric D. Snider

The 6th Day

Perhaps the makers of "The 6th Day" realized that the fading Arnold Schwarzenegger now has about half the box-office strength he once did, and shrewdly thought to shore themselves up against that liability by putting TWO Arnold Schwarzeneggers in their movie.

Whatever they were thinking, it works. "The 6th Day" is an exciting high-tech action film that's even a little clever, in its big, blowing-things-up kind of way.

The film -- which borrows liberally from Arnold's own "Total Recall" and "Eraser," as well as from "The Fugitive" and "The Matrix" (at least they picked some good movies to steal from) -- is set in the near future. Arnold is Adam Gibson, a family man who works as a helicopter pilot for an extreme sports company, and he's a little old-fashioned. Human cloning is illegal and apparently impossible to do correctly anyway, but animal cloning is commonplace, so much so that companies have arisen that will store your pet's DNA and use it to make a new animal in the event Fluffy should find herself on the wrong side of a set of truck tires. Adam doesn't cotton to this kind of tampering in God's domain, and is reluctant to buy a new dog when his daughter's pooch dies. Instead, he buys her a life-sized doll that walks, talks and grows real hair -- the world's creepiest toy, in other words.

Upon arriving home with Creepy Doll, Adam is startled to see himself inside, celebrating his birthday with family and friends. Before he can react, he is accosted by a couple hired goons who try to kill him, failing in that but succeeding in letting him know what's going on: Human-organ cloners Weir (Robert Duvall) and Drucker (Tony Goldwyn) -- organ cloning is OK; it's entire-human cloning that's bad -- have secretly been making spare people in their high-security labs. Drucker's been cloned a couple times himself, in fact, having made a few enemies who occasionally kill him. Due to a mix-up I won't divulge here, a new Adam was made without the old Adam being dead yet. Since human cloning is against the law, Weir and Drucker have to kill one of the Adams before anyone knows there are two of them.

Director Roger Spottiswoode ("Tomorrow Never Dies") has manufactured a near-future that is startlingly realistic. There are some goofy elements in it -- nacho-flavored bananas and virtual girlfriends, for example -- but also quite a few things that are not unreasonable, and that science is heading toward already. (Refrigerators that tell you when you're running low on items and allow you to order new ones from the store; cars with autopilot and navigation systems.) If everything looked totally space-age, it would lose its immediacy; the point here is that what's going on may not be far off.

Well, that's the point to the extent that there IS a point. No one will accuse "The 6th Day" of being an overly cerebral film, though it is relatively free of gaping plot holes. It's an action movie, and a good one, at that. There's a thrilling car chase, lots of explosions, cheesy post-mortem one-liners from Arnold, and as many "I'm not myself today" kind of jokes as you can think of (and trust me, you could think of all of them). Schwarzenegger may finally be back to full-strength again at the box office.

Grade: B

Rated PG-13, heavy profanity, abundant violence (some of it graphic), some strong sexual innuendo

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