The 6th Day is set in the near future (“sooner than you think”), when a cloning company called RePet can make genetic copies of your deceased pets so you never have to say goodbye. The scheme reminded me of one of the brilliant ideas we’ve had here at Screen Goblin HQ for a humane pest control service called Pests2Pets, where rather than killing any unwanted vermin, we simply make them into pets. By giving them a collar and installing a litter tray, you’ll no longer “have mice” – you’ll be a proud pet owner.
Released in 2000, The 6th Day is a subtitled Arnold Schwarznegger movie – at least it is when I watch it. Arnie plays badass Adam Gibson, who learns that he’s been cloned and must track down answers from Michael Drucker (Tony Goldwyn), the billionaire owner of the Replacement Technologies corporation. Essentially Total Recall with a Matrix soundtrack, this is a highly underrated sci-fi flick.
The sci-fi technology is believably integrated into a recognisable future by Canadian-British director Roger Spottiswoode, who knows his way around an action movie, having also directed Tomorrow Never Dies and, erm, Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot – a dead-on-arrival project in which Arnie deliberately feigned interest to trick his rival Sylvester Stallone into taking the role.
Here, Kevin Costner turned down the part of Adam Gibson, allowing Arnie to turn in one of his better human performances – ie. you believe he is one. He was unfairly nominated for 3 Razzies (as Adam, the clone, and both for the Worst Screen Couple award) but lost all 3 to John Travolta, Barry Pepper and John Travolta for the notoriously dreadful Scientology propaganda movie Battlefield Earth.
The 2 films don’t belong in the same category. Although it disappointed financially, The 6th Day deserves reappraisal as a smart and fun feature, which contains all the things missing from Battlefield Earth. A mad yet coherent plot that makes you care. A pacey mixture of story, action and ideas. A strong villain who happens to resemble Steve Jobs. And a talented but weird cast that includes Robert Duvall, Michael Rooker, Terry Crews and Michael Rapaport, who restores karmic balance by going from shooting animals in Friends to cloning them here.
It’s also enjoyably ridiculous and incredibly funny, with a satirical comic book streak reminiscent of RoboCop and Total Recall, and endlessly quotable dialogue enhanced by Arnie’s trademark delivery. “That’s for sleeping with my wife… in the damn minivan.” And of course, “Aaarrghaaghh!” The noirish conspiracy plot and religious themes are more satisfying than Minority Report, while the virtual girlfriend and constant question of who is a clone are more playfully executed than Blade Runner 2049.
On top of that, there’s an Arnie vs Arnie fight scene that easily beats Duhminator Genisys and an unspeakably creepy animatronic doll that appears to have special needs – which is at the very least a positive vision of diversity for the future.
Arnie has said that the film is set in 2015, making its predictions (self-driving cars, fridges that order your food) impressively accurate. All except one – there’s a woman president. Maybe “later than you think” would have been more appropriate.