The Sixth Day
Here are the things I liked about Arnold Schwarzenegger's new film "The Sixth Day," which is set a few years ahead of us in an era of biomedical advances in cloning:
1. It was shot in and around Vancouver, B.C., North America's most perfect city, and whose beautiful new residential architecture around False Creek is a great reason to believe that the near future need not be as bad as we fear.
2. It has Michael Rapaport doing his very best cute and funny New York City/overgrown-kid persona.
3. It has Tony Goldwyn as Arnold's antagonist, in a role that has much to commend it intellectually by making a believable argument for cloning, which Goldwyn exemplifies with unexpected understanding and sympathy, turning him from villain to victim.
4. It has the classic science-fiction-story structure of the innocent to whom bad things are done by powerful forces in the name of a higher good, and it touches all the necessary plot points in the proper order.
5. It even has Robert Duvall (uncredited) as the scientist who's made all this possible but is now faced with, let's say this together, a crisis of conscience.
In other words, it's a pretty good entertainment, and in a year as bad as this that's not faint praise. Schwarzenegger has never gotten the recognition he deserves as a screen presence, someone who can carry a film just by showing up. He's compelling to look at, and though his acting range is very limited his line readings in the proper context are fine. That's no small achievement. He can even play off of his screen persona in a comedy; just think back to "Twins."
Here he runs a charter helicopter service with sidekick Rapaport, and is targeted by clonemeister Goldwyn for killing and replacement by a clone, for reasons that escape me now but seemed to make sense during the film. The bulk of the plot is then concerned with Arnold's attempts to get his life, his wife, and his daughter back and out of the arms of his clone. Will he do it? Oh, please.
But the various chases, near-misses and cute little plot tricks (the clones are designed with bad DNA, so they will live only a few years and must be replaced again and again) are intriguing enough to hold our attention. The film sags only when we get near enough to the denouement to prepare for the final meltdown of the baddies; the climax has been stretched out by about twenty minutes, far beyond what's needed, and would have been much more effective had the filmmakers cut it shorter. But this is by no means the worst of Arnold's films; that honor goes to "True Lies." Put it somewhere near "Total Recall."