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Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #500

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Number of Views: Three
Release Date: October 28, 2000
Sub-Genre: Sci-Fi/Thriller
Country of Origin: United States
Budget: $82,000,000
Box Office: $96,085,477
Running Time: 124 minutes
Director: Roger Spottiswoode
Producers: Jon Davison, Mike Medavoy, Arnold Schwarzenegger
Screenplay: Cormac Wibberley, Marianne Wibberley
Special Effects: Michael Lantieri
Visual Effects: David Drzewiecki, Peter Kuran, Tom Leeser, Jerry Pooler, Thomas J. Smith, Gene Warren Jr.
Cinematography: Pierre Mignot
Score: Trevor Rabin
Editing: Michel Arcand, Mark Conte, Dominique Fortin
Studio: Phoenix Pictures
Distributor: Columbia Pictures
Stars: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Michael Rapaport, Tony Goldwyn, Michael Rooker, Sarah Wynter, Robert Duvall, Wendy Crewson, Rodney Rowland, Terry Crews, Ken Pogue, Colin Cunningham, Wanda Cannon, Taylor Anne Reid, Steve Bacic

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Suggested Audio Candy:

Trevor Rabin The Roof Top

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Imagine the kind of world domination that could be achieved with, not one, but two Schwarzeneggers. That is the equivalent of four Van Dammes and half a Lundgren. The mind boggles. Back in the eighties, this man could do absolutely no wrong and enjoyed the same sort of success as an actor as he had in body building during the seventies. He had forecast as much years earlier during an interview for George Butler and Robert Fiore’s insightful documentary Pumping Iron and, when Arnold Schwarzenegger sets a goal, you can bet your bottom dollar that a slam dunk is inbound. True to form, he quickly found his niche and wisely played to his strengths as reciting Shakespeare was never likely to be on the cards. In 1984, James Cameron took a calculated risk in casting him as The Terminator and the ultimate eighties action hero was born.

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“Strength does not come from winning. Your struggles develop your strengths. When you go through hardships and decide not to surrender, that is strength.”

Of course, all good things must eventually come to an end, even for the world’s most bankable star. After a string of big-hitters including Commando, Predator, Total Recall and True Lies, his iron grip on the top spot started to slacken. Family friendly fare such as Jingle All The Way did him absolutely no favors and, by the time Batman & Robin appeared and was crucified across the board, his faithful following began to dissemble. Despite the likes of End of Days and Eraser proving that he hadn’t given up on making decent mass market movies, suddenly the unthinkable occurred and profit was no longer a foregone conclusion. Once you have scaled the heights and established yourself as the undisputed king of the action blockbuster, only for your popularity to waver, an $80 million outlay becomes a lot to shell out on a wing and a prayer.

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However, that is precisely what happened in the year 2000 as Roger Spottiswoode’s The 6th Day aimed to turn things around, placing Arnold firmly back in his comfort zone. The science fiction genre had previously served him well and, on paper, success appeared to be a bona fide sure thing. By all accounts, it actually performed reasonably well at the box office, and raking in almost $100 million was ordinarily not to be sniffed at. Alas, over 4/5 of its profit was swallowed up in costs before it even hit the multiplexes and, soon after, politics beckoned for the once untouchable Austrian Oak. Arnold always did know when to quit and finish as near as possible to the top of his game as failure is not a word in this man’s vocabulary.

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Somewhat predictably, critics weren’t overly kind to The 6th Day and it was widely regarded as routine and formulaic. This is where a little perspective is required as, had this arrived a decade earlier, the same tongues would likely have been licking his boots. It’s no Total Recall for sure and I’m not about to remark that it’s one of his better movies, but there are more than enough reasons to harbor a soft spot for this fast-paced optical treat. Schwarzenegger, never regarded as the most versatile actor on the planet, actually gives one of his more refined performances and is joined by a number of colorful fringe players. Besides, what other film gives you Schwarzenegger x 2?

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God created man in His own image, and behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day. GENESIS 1.27, 31

Here he plays helicopter pilot Adam Gibson, a protagonist far more run of the mill than the customary beefed-up machismo man as is usually the norm. Adam is a devoted husband and loving father, with old-fashioned values and a steady job that pays the bills. The world is fast changing around him and DNA cloning is now a widely accepted practice. Fruit and vegetables are genetically engineered and even the common banana now comes in nacho flavor. Meanwhile, the death of your domestic pet need no longer break your little one’s heart, as a quick trip to RePet will see you walking away with a cloned replacement in minutes. Arnold is skeptical about the new technology and, when his daughter’s beloved mutt takes the one-way trip to doggie heaven, he is reluctant to become a subscriber.

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“We won’t have to lose our Mozarts. We won’t have to lose our Martin Luther Kings. We will have finally conquered death.”

While cloning is now considered par for the course, this doesn’t yet extend to humans. Multinational corporation Replacement Technologies is right at the hub of these scientific advancements and pushing for laws to change so that death can become a thing of the past. It appears just a matter of time and company president Michael Drucker (Tony Goldwyn) certainly has a persuasive way about him. Behind the scenes, Dr. Griffin Weir (Robert Duvall) is busy perfecting the technology and rumors are circulating that illegal human cloning is already underway. All of this means nothing to Gibson as he’s only interested in returning home in time for his little girl’s birthday party and praying that a creepy-assed SimDoll will make do after opting not to invest in a RePet.

Trevor Rabin Adam´s Theme

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“There’s someone in my house, eating my birthday cake, with my family, and it’s not me!”

However, he should be worried. As he arrives at his front door clutching his synthetic plaything and peers in through the window, he suffers what can best be described as a Scrooge moment. His nearest and dearest are all present and correct and appear to be enjoying the celebrations without him, although there is something vaguely familiar about one house guest in particular. Some folk are easy to mistake as somebody else but Schwarzenegger has never really been one of those people. Adam Gibson is evidently home, moreover, the bastard only went and caved in to his wife’s request for a RePet. In a few hours, a few inches of Austrian mutton will more than likely be venturing inside his wife and that leaves our cloned peeping Tom somewhat surplus to requirements.

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To compound his anguish, he appears to have attracted some unwanted attention from a group of hired assassins tasked with snuffing out any additional Adams. These persistent rogues waste no time in making his life even more of a misery than it has already become and he is left with precious few people to turn to. Thankfully he can always count on his best friend Hank (Michael Rapaport) to have his back in a fix and crashing his pad affords Adam #2 the breathing space to work out a plan B. He has more than an inkling that Drucker is behind this skullduggery but staying alive long enough to prove it is looking like a tall order. He may be an everyday schmuck but he’s a resourceful everyday schmuck with an axe to grind and no intention of being deleted. Suddenly, we are in more than familiar territory.

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The 6th Day may not quite be vintage Schwarzenegger but there are a number of reasons why it punches its weight effortlessly. Goldwyn makes for a perfectly slimy criminal overlord and Duvall brings real humanity to his role as the wantaway Weir, questioning whether or not death should really be the end as his beloved wife withers before his teary eyes. Michael Rooker, Sarah Wynter, Terry Crews and Rodney Rowland are all immensely likeable as Drucker’s clone death squad and there’s a lot of fun to be had in watching each of them perish in all manner of inventive ways only to return to the fray after rapid reinvention.

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Spottiswoode started his directorial journey with the little-known 1980 slasher Terror Train with Jamie Lee Curtis in the leading role and, in 1988, brought us the excellent Deadly Pursuit. He does his level best to spend his flush $82 million kitty wisely, bombarding our senses with high-speed chases, laser gun battles, huge explosions and aerodynamics, while the moment when Adam #1 and #2 finally come face to face is convincingly staged and provides one of the film’s standout moments. Does it shed any real light on the ripe concept of cloning? Not particularly but the screenplay by Cormac & Marianne Wibberley isn’t focused on testing our grey matter and, instead, is tailored solely for adrenaline junkies. There is no great science to The 6th Day beyond its novel core concept but what it does, it does more than adequately.

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Time is the great healer where films such as this are concerned. Lumped together will other work from Schwarzenegger’s vast oeuvre, it sits more than comfortably in the middle echelons. He may not have been quite as fashionable a star as he once was but, for the most part, he still made decent choices. The 6th Day will not change your life and neither will it leave you with food for thought. But, for 124 hi-octane minutes, it is pretty much guaranteed to entertain you. Sometimes that really is all it takes. Besides, two Schwarzeneggers equates to double the one-liners and “we’ll be back” has a decidedly nice ring to it.

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Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 7/10

 

Crimson Quill’s 500 Bonus Appraisal

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Number of Views: One
Release Date: September 25, 2009
Sub-Genre: Sci-Fi/Thriller
Country of Origin: United States
Budget: $80,000,000
Box Office: $122,400,000
Running Time: 89 minutes
Director: Jonathan Mostow
Producers: David Hoberman, Todd Lieberman, Max Handelman
Screenplay: John Brancato, Michael Ferris
Based on The Surrogates by Robert Venditti
Special Effects: Greg Nicotero, Howard Berger
Cinematography: Oliver Wood
Score: Richard Marvin
Editing: Kevin Stitt, Barry Zetlin
Studios: Touchstone Pictures, Mandeville Films, Top Shelf Productions
Distributor: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Stars: Bruce Willis, Radha Mitchell, Rosamund Pike, Boris Kodjoe, Jack Noseworthy, James Cromwell, Ving Rhames, Devin Ratray, Michael Cudlitz, Jeffrey De Serrano, Helena Mattsson

March 009

Suggested Audio Candy:

Richard Marvin Shift Enter

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Given that this is my landmark 500th appraisal, it wouldn’t seem right not to offer a little added bonus. In light of the fact that The 6th Day centers around clone technology and, by sheer chance, I watched Surrogates mere days afterwards, it feels particularly fitting that I double up to mark this rather special occasion. Last but by no means least, Jonathan Mostow’s lightning-paced crowd pleaser is actually the better overall movie. Based on Robert Venditti’s 2006 novel of the same name, it delves a little deeper into the concept of future technology and offers an intriguing take on the impact it could have on the human race.

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In truth, clones are not really the issue here and, instead, the world is populated with a new wave of “surrogates”, offering everyday folk the opportunity of partaking in their daily grind in idealized forms. Should you be as ugly as sin or sport a limelight hogging hairy facial mole, then fret not as surrogate technology brings new meaning to the term reinvention. While you sit in the comfort of your own home, far away from the prying eyes of the judgemental general public, your very own custom-made doppelgänger can walk the mean streets without fear of having raw vegetables hurled its way. Even if it does, your surrogate will gladly take any blows on your behalf and, if you wish to cheat on your spouse, then you can’t be accused of duplicitous behavior as you’ve been sat in your recliner the whole time. Seems idyllic right?

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Your damn right it is. Almost the entire population has bought into its promise of a better quality of life barring a handful of rebels intent on keeping it real. Amongst those gleefully partaking are FBI agent Tom Greer (Bruce Willis) and his partner Jennifer Peters (Radha Mitchell). Controlled remotely from their personal quarters, Tom and Jennifer’s surrogate others are sporting all manner of cosmetic enhancements. If you are wondering why Mitchell has never looked better then the extensive work done in-post to remove any imperfections should answer your questions.

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She looks phenomenal although, let’s be honest, she wasn’t exactly shabby to start with. Willis on the other hand, comes off decidedly worse. Sporting a mop of blonde locks that he presumably pilfered from Brad Pitt’s trailer during the filming of Meet Joe Black, he resembles an ass and, moreover, one belonging to a horse.

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Willis looks just fine as he is and few can claim to have made the bald man sexy as he has. His new look takes a little getting used to, to put it mildly, but thankfully he is returned to factory settings before too long after venturing into unchartered territory in the pursuit of a law-breaker. Said offender has managed to get his grubby hands on a new-fangled weapon capable of overloading surrogate systems in a solitary blast and heads straight for the Dread Reservation. This is one of many anti-surrogate zones and led militantly by a man referred to as The Prophet (Ving Rhames) by his flock of followers. Despite Tom’s best efforts at fitting in, his ridiculous blonde head pussy and lack of a functional right arm give him away in no time and it is game over for the surrogate.

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As one door closes, another invariably opens and the real Tom decides it is time to stretch his legs. He has been increasingly frustrated by the complete lack of real-time interaction with his wife Maggie (Rosamund Pike) since losing their only son years earlier. The strain is visible and Maggie seems perpetually trapped in an ideal which was initially a coping mechanism. It’s an interesting and tragic dynamic which is aided, in no small manner, by an uncharacteristically vulnerable turn from Willis and typically sound one from Pike. However it is much more than merely solid performances from two seasoned professionals. John Brancato and Michael Ferris’ thoughtful screenplay hits all the right beats and suddenly any center parted head foliage is forgotten.

Richard Marvin Warrant/Foot Chase

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As Tom steps outside for a rare excursion into the real world, knowing full well that any damage inflicted will now prove terminal, Surrogates hits full throttle. At a surprisingly slender 89 minutes, time is of the essence and Mostow ensures that every last second is accounted for. It moves at quite a clip and there are numerous well-staged set-pieces to titillate our bulging pleasure receptors. The ever-dependable Mitchell provides sturdy support as his Jennifer, Rhames dons his dreads well as The Prophet, and James Cromwell is simply fantastic as the inventor of surrogate technology, Dr. Lionel Canter. His is one of two tertiary characters that resonates particularly strongly. Devin Ratray also provides welcome humanity in the form of the network’s system administrator, Bobby Saunders.

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Surrogates poses a fair few questions and is ultimately disinterested in spoon-feeding all the answers. Its primary objective is to entertain and, behind its sleek exterior lays a simple tale of a man desperate to regain both his identity and his fractured life. Mostow’s film is seldom any less than a joy and, with his sixties fast approaching, Willis proves that he can still hop a fence or two. While falling just shy of being considered a classic, it also does precious little wrong. The effects, both practical courtesy of FX heavyweights Greg Nicotero and Howard Berger, and visual from a list of names which reads like the extras from Zulu Dawn, are excellent across the board and 89 minutes literally rockets past. In a world populated by bloated running times, it is refreshing to see a director simply getting straight to the point. In that respect, Surrogates is something of a surrogate itself. Sweet irony.

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On this note, Keeper’s bumper 500th appraisal double-header draws to a close and I prepare to embark on the next major milestone. At this rate, I’m going to need to conjure up something fairly spectacular once 1000 comes a knocking but, right now, I think I’ll take a short breather. I trust that my appraisals offer insight into what film can offer both viscerally and emotionally and I will endeavor to honor the classics and signpost you to lesser-known delights for as long as my frail shell allows. With a bit of luck, surrogacy will catch on and, if it does, I’m going to grab myself that tight-assed gheri-curl I’ve always wanted. The world is crying out for a white Rick James.

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Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 8/10

Read The Terminator Appraisal

Read Strange Days Appraisal

Read The Matrix Appraisal

Read The Matrix Reloaded Appraisal

 

Keeper of the Crimson Quill

Copyright: Crimson Quill: Savage Vault Enterprises 2015

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