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His Days Are Numbered: Arnold Schwarzenegger fights the future in 'The 6th Day.'

No Time to Rest

Arnie clings to self in midst of clones in 'The 6th Day'

By Richard von Busack

THE NEW ARNOLD Schwarzenegger film takes its title from Genesis 1:27, where God makes man on the sixth day of creation. The 6th Day is all about the wrongness of playing God, a theses that's maybe out of place in a Schwarzenegger movie--he's decided who will live and who will die on screen for decades now. In the near future, Schwarzenegger, a Vancouver helicopter pilot named Adam, is on the run from an evil biotech company that is in the illegal business of cloning human beings. They have a "Syncorder"--that metal thing Arnold is peering into in the posters--which dubs your personality into one of these clones. The diabolical executive Weir (Tony Goldwyn) believes that murder is necessary to cover these inventions up.

Adam, cloned without his knowledge, is the supposed witness to a crime that could reveal the existence of human clones. There's no reason that Weir Laboratories couldn't just kill him. The villains would have no trouble making the death look like an accident, either, since Our Hero likes to have chicken races in jet-powered helicopters. These race scenes in a narrow, snowy canyon are plainly just there to goose the movie; they're similar and inferior to the pretitle sequence in Tomorrow Never Dies, which was also directed by Roger Spottiswoode.

Spottiswoode is more fascinated by the gadgets of the future than by the forgettable fights and explosions, cloned one too many times from other movies. The best parts of The 6th Day are the bloodless moments. Robert Duvall, as a scientist at Weir, has a discussion with his dying wife (touchingly played by Wanda Cannon), who wants "Do not clone" as part of her living will in a scene that would be a credit to any serious drama.

Schwarzenegger is one of the few movie stars to take speculative fiction seriously. The scene of the doctor offering him a pill in Total Recall says everything that The Matrix says--faster and better. The real meat of this film is the way it shows the near-permanent state of future shock some older men live in. These days, Schwarzenegger is most watchable when he's facing the world's changes uncertainly, heavy jaw hanging in disbelief.

The 6th Day (PG-13; 124 min.), directed by Roger Spottiswoode, written by Cormac and Marianne Wibberley, photographed by Pierre Mignot and starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Tony Goldwyn and Robert Duvall, opens Friday at the 41st Ave. Playhouse, Santa Cruz Cinema 9 and the Fox Theatre.

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From the November 15-22, 2000 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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