The 6th Day
For a movie about cloning, it's only appropriate that The 6th Day, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, is instilled with a strong sense of déjà vu, namely from Arnold's previous "Who am I?" outing, Total Recall. In that movie, Arnold is a normal Joe who discovers that his entire reality has been co-opted by an evil conspiracy, and has to take his life back by force. The same premise applies here for Roger Spottiswoode's clever if overlong sci-fi thriller--Arnold thinks he's a regular guy leading a regular life, until a twist of fate puts him on the lam from a vast conspiracy that's replaced him with a clone. While he's trying to evade the evil genetics corporation--and its trendy, deadly, clone-friendly assassins (who don't care how many times they're killed: there's more where that came from)--his double is snuggling at home with his wife and daughter. And new legislation outlaws the existence of human clones, so somebody's got to go. But who gets to be live and who gets to be the dead Memorex man? Why does said genetics corporation want to clone people? How does the kindly scientist (Robert Duvall) fit in? What's the mystery behind the slick billionaire (Tony Goldwyn) who runs everything? It's all kind of irrelevant in the end, as long as it provides a chance for Arnold to indulge in some energetic mayhem and explosive action. What distinguishes The 6th Day is its sneaky, humorous--and chilling--look at the near future, taking everyday technological advances and turning them up just a couple notches, envisioning an era with cloned pets, virtual girlfriends, and computers running most everything, from the refrigerator to your car. Arnold is supposed to be a throwback to the "real" world--you can tell because he cherishes his vintage, navigation-system-free Cadillac--but as usual, he just brings his behemoth presence to the role and not much else. Still, he's a friendly enough hero, and he rolls with the punches (literally) all the way through to the end. Too bad the film overstays its welcome by about half an hour--a little shorter and it could have been a breezy sci-fi/action romp. With scene stealers Michael Rooker, Sarah Wynter, and Rod Rowland as the trio of cloned assassins who always come back--again and again. --Mark Englehart
"The One" is a sort of one extended, or I should say, stretched episode of "X-Files" series, which the director James Wong is deeply involved. Like his previous film "Final Destination," the film is built upon one unique premise, and here we are told in the opening that the universe is in reality a muti-verse, consisting of 125 different versions of the world. In one of them, Mr, Gore is the president of USA while in another Mr. Bush. On the basis of that concept, now Li can play 125 versions of himself, but ... do we need to watch all of them while one of them is already formidable?
Anyway, one evil Ji, coming out of one universe, travels to kill off all other versions of him, and the last one is a good guy Li, who must confront the other Li with a help from the policemen that watch over the prohibited interactions between those universes. As those policeman, Delroy Liodo ("Romeo Must Die") and Jason Statham ("Lock Stock...") appear.
Interested? Unfortunately, the film, short as it is, doesn't afford to hold our attention long as it sounds on paper, simply because of these following clear factors. Reason One: Li is a great action hero on his own, who doesn't need any other "one". Reason Two: the fact is that we have seen similar settings already; say, for example, "The Matrix" (And you may be reminded of "Timecop" with its alternate world image and the multi-universe cops.) The film starts promisingly, but soon we realize that it has little to offer after it sets up its whole rules.
The actions themselves are shot very excitngly, thanks to, of course, Li's nimble movements, but CGI generated scenes are, to be frank, below average, sometimes looking as unnnatural as characters on TV games (but excuse me for saying that, if that is exactly the point). The final battle between the good Li and bad Li is fairly exciting, but still there sticks one little though in my mind while watching it -- that is, why need two Lis when one is great and cool enough? And as for Carla Gugino (mom of "The Spy Kids"), the director is hugely guilty of misusing her, wasting her beautiful and sexy presence, and totally ignoring her potential as playing more than a secondary, disposable character. The way she is used is as misguided as letting Jet Li hold guns (does he need?), and the latter kind of Hollywood-type action is obviously a dead giveaway that they still don't learn the essence of Li's actions.
I said these harsh things because, so far, Ji's Hollywood-made movies are not well-received in Asia, and though we still follow the master's path, namely from "Lethal Weapon 4" to "The One," we don't know for sure; don't know what to do with them. if you really want to know what Li can do with his charismatic acting as one-and-only action hero, see his "Once Upon a Time in China" series. What he needs is the director Tsui Hark's flair for presenting genuinely thrilling, outrageously exciting martial arts jet-coaster sequence.
I really didn't expect much of this movie. The plot is complex: 125 parallel dimensions exist. A member of the Multiverse Bureau of Investigation accidentally kills one of his alteregos in a parallel universe and discovers that he becomes stronger, faster, and more powerful. Realizing that, if he kills all of his multiple selves, this process can make him a god, he goes off on a killing spree in the most egregious example of self-loathing this side of sci-fidom.
WAY too many critics put this movie down for its special effects. Specifically, that the effects mimic the Matrix. So what? Seeing Jet grab two motorcycles, one in each hand, and smash a man to death with them is a thrill. He kicks cops out of thin air, dodges bullets, and jumps across buildings. That's the best part of the movie.
The problem is, Jet Li just can't act. Or I should say, he can't act well. The plot demands a lot of him -- this is a rare instance of a script being better than the actor can handle. Jet Li is supposed to weep over his wife's loss, act in multiple roles as his multiple selves, display rage, hope, madness...more than most people display in a year. Jet can't do it. His English is quite good, but he simply doesn't have the range.
And in a movie all ABOUT range, Jet can't pull it off. But that's okay, what he does is some amazing martial arts, demonstrates really cool special effects, and provides a funky plotline that inspired me enough to want to run a mini-campaign in this setting (maybe I will, hmmm). That's the highest compliment I can give any movie.