There are widely considered to be two phases to Arnold Schwarzenegger's acting career: before and after 'The Terminator.' I would argue that there's another era as well: before and after 'Kindergarten Cop.' It was with that woeful 1990 family comedy that Schwarzenegger truly jumped the shark, proclaiming to the world that he was an action star on the decline who could no longer be called upon to deliver the testosterone-fueled thrills his brand name promised. Rather than try to stay in the game and compete as an action star, aging Arnie would instead attempt to "diversify" in a variety of movies with broader appeal that, quite frankly, sucked. It was, as they say, the beginning of the end.
Sadly, 'The 6th Day' is that end, or quite close to it -- one of the last action films Schwarzenegger would make, and along with other forgettable, post-'Cop' fare like 'Collateral Damage' and 'End of Days,' a strained attempt to graft the usual Arnold formula (high-octane chase sequences, lots of fight scenes, minimal dialogue) with a "timely" high-concept. In '6th Day,' it's cloning, which back in 2000 was big news and still highly-controversial stuff. Throw in a dollop of Philip K. Dick-inspired "intellectualism" here, add a dollop of sloppy humor there, and the result is that 'The 6th Day' is not only one of Schwarzenegger's weakest efforts, but a major rip-off of his own 'Total Recall.'
The plot: 'The 6th Day' imagines a world of the very near future, in which cattle, fish, and even the family pet can be cloned. But cloning humans is illegal -- that is until "family man" Adam Gibson (Schwarzenegger) comes home from work one day to find that a clone has replaced him. Taken from his family and plunged into a sinister world he doesn't understand (is there any other kind?), Gibson must not only save himself from the assassins who aim to destroy him, but uncover who and what is behind the horrible things happening to him.
'The 6th Day' is a perfunctory exercise in borrowed ideas from a zillion other sci-fi flicks, and replete with creative gambits that worked better in other Schwarzenegger movies. The "Re-Pet" dolls (which are so much like something out of a 'Child's Play' movie you wonder how any parent in America would buy one for their kid) feel like a second-rate Dick invention, as does the "Schwarzenegger clone" conceit. The comedic relief (with Michael Rappaport getting the Tom Arnold role from 'True Lies') is also strained -- there's just no chemistry or fun byplay between any of the cast. Even the villains are dull and unmemorable.
'The 6th Day' was directed by Roger Spottiswoode ('Tomorrow Never Dies'), and his approach is merely workmanlike. He's always been a competent craftsmen, but his films lack uniqueness, and there's little about the production design or the technology of this plausible near-future that is memorable. The action scenes are also not nearly as much fun as even the weakest sequences in 'Terminator' or 'Total Recall.' The whole construct feels programmed, as if a bunch of second-unit directors shot a bunch of stuff from different angles on nicely-designed sets, slapped it together in the editing room, and called it a "vision."
The absolute worst thing about 'The 6th Day,' however, is that even Schwarzenegger is on auto-pilot. He appears to care little about the interesting cloning ideas that the script lightly touches upon, aside from the cynical hope that they'll return him to box office relevance. 'The 6th Day' seems more like a filmed committee meeting ("Schwarzenegger! Cloning! Sci-fi action!" $30 million opening box office for sure!") than a living, breathing motion picture that anyone behind the camera had an emotional investment in. Although I chuckled along with everyone else the day Schwarzenegger first announced his candidacy for California governor, it turned out to be a wise move, since judging from 'The 6th Day,' his movie career had already run out of gas.
Sony presents 'The 6th Day' in 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 video (2.40:1), and this nearly eight-year-old film looks surprisingly sprightly. This is certainly one of the better upgrades I've seen for a recent but not factory-fresh catalog release, with a clear improvement over the standard DVD that's sure to please.
The source is in absolutely pristine shape -- it's as good as any new release I've seen. Blacks are dead-on, and contrast is excellent as well -- the image has great pop but is not over-tweaked. Colors are rich, clean and eye-popping, with nice uses of bright reds and blues, and a slightly paler use of accents like deep purple and green. It's all represented with great stability and, aside from some intended stylization, accurate fleshtones.
Detail is ample and holds its own, even with a new release. The transfer is almost always three-dimensional with great pop, for that "picture window" effect of the best high-def. This is also a slick encode with no major compression artifacts. My only minor nitpick is that the sharpness has been ratcheted up a notch, to the point that it borders on the artificial -- I was not bothered by ringing, but a more natural appearance would have been welcome. No matter -- 'The 6th Day' looks great.
Just like the video, the audio plays like gangbusters, enjoying Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround options (48kHz/16-bit) in English, French and Portuguese (Spanish and Thai Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround tracks are also provided at 640kbps). It's a very strong presentation, one that has aged well in the intervening decade.
I was surprised at the depth and heft of dynamic range. Low bass gave my subwoofer quite a workout at a solid volume, and was nicely balanced with the rest of the spectrum, which is just as expansive. Dialogue is clear and punchy, and I never had to reach for my remote to adjust levels. Surround use is also strong, with discrete effects bouncing around the soundfield during the action scenes, with nice dispersement and clean pans. The score is also nicely bled throughout. Typical of action films, dialogue scenes are bland by comparison, but there is still a decent amount of activity in the rears throughout, so it wasn't that detrimental. As with the video, I was quite impressed with the quality of the audio on 'The 6th Day.'
Sony has repackaged almost all of the extras (sans the isolated score with commentary) from the standard DVD edition of 'The 6th Day.' Compared to the fully-stocked discs coming out of the studios these days, this is a pretty light affair, and Sony hasn't bumped up the video at all for Blu-ray -- it's all 480p/i/MPEG-2, and not even formatted for 16:9 screens. French subtitle options are also provided on all of the video-based material.
'The 6th Day' is a decent sci-fi action flick, but far from one of Arnold Schwarzenegger's best -- it feels too much like a reheated take on 'Total Recall' and 'The Terminator.' This Blu-ray looks and sounds pretty great, however, with above-average quality for a catalog release. The same can't be said for the dated extras or the much-touted BD-Live function, which simply allows you access to movie trailers you could watch much more easily online. If you like the flick and just want to enjoy an appreciable upgrade over the standard DVD version, this is worth considering.