Before 6 Underground released, Netflix dropped an with star Ryan Reynolds proclaiming it to be the most Michael Bay movie ever made. That was a bit hard to believe as Michael Bay hasn’t been Michael Bay for years now. The director has either been mired in Transformers movies he clearly didn’t give two craps about or doing weirdly not Michael Bay stuff with films like Pain and Gain and 13 Hours. It felt like his Bayness had lost his not-so-delicate touch.
Turns out he just needed to stop making Transformers movies. 6 Underground is classic Michael Bay in all of his glory. For both better and worse, this is a Michael “Blow everything up real good and forget the rest” Bay movie. Whether or not you like that is entirely up to you but Netflix is clearly hoping a lot of people like it.
Director: Michael Bay
Release Date: December 13, 2019
Some of you may be sitting there scratching your heads about Michael Bay not making any Michael Bay movies recently as you may think that the last three Transformer movies were indeed Bay films as they were nothing but explosions and idiots. However, that’s just not true. Michael Bay is really good at action and explosions when he wants to be but both those things were completely incoherent in the last few Transformers films making them not just bad movies but bad Michael Bay movies. The first ten minutes of 6 Underground proves this point as the film opens with a gorgeous car chase through the streets of Italy that is well-crafted, coherent, and exciting. It is Michael Bay basically telling everyone that he’s still got it and damn does he.
6 Underground follows six people only known by numbers. One (Ryan Reynolds) is their enigmatic leader, a billionaire who faked his death in order to be able to set up the team. Then you have Two (Mélanie Laurent), an ex-CIA spy; Three (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo), a hit man; Four (Ben Hardy), a gymnast/parkour guy; Five (Adria Arjona), the team doctor; Six (Dave Franco), the team driver; and Seven (Corey Hawkins), the new recruit. This motley crew have all faked their deaths so they travel the world uninhibited by laws or responsibilities or in order to kill the worst people there are. Their target for this film is a middle eastern warlord committing atrocities on his own people. Shooting ensures.
Look, if you hate swooping cameras, beautiful people, cameras slow panning over naked bodies (men and women’s but mostly women’s) and slow motion then you already know that this isn’t going to be your film. However, Bay is a master at these things and they are littered throughout 6 Undgerground. Action sequences feel creative and fresh, jumping from absurd to gory in the blink of an eye with Bay making violent and bloody use of the R rating. The final sequence aboard a luxury yacht uses massive magnets to a ridiculous effect that turns it into one of the more creative shootouts I’ve seen. Is it absurd and unrealistic and stupid? Yes. Shut up.
Having said that, it seems dumb to comment on the movie’s plot since that’s not the point of the film but its disappointing. That’s not because the movie just has a dumb plot but because its concept is actually pretty cool. The idea of a billionaire with a mysterious past recruiting a bunch of people who want to be dead onto a secret team that does what governments can’t could actually be pretty interesting. The film even seems to know this, with high-level discussions on the freedoms of being dead but it never actually dives into it. Part of the problem is that Netflix and Bay clearly see a franchise here and they’re setting it up so hard they forgot they had to establish a base in the actual film. Characters get uneven plotting and you never feel like them faking their deaths to join the team actually amount to anything.
There is actually an odd dichotomy throughout the film as well. The movie seems to want to make a comment about “society,” which comes up given the war crimes the bad guy is committing on screen, but can’t stop blowing things up or swooshing the camera dramatically enough to do it. Imagine an add for donations to a non-profit supporting war refugees but directed by Michael Bay and you’ll understand the issue.
The cast is the cast, really. You’ve got Ryan Reynolds spitting out one-liners like there’s no tomorrow and the rest of the “six” either playing comic relief, sexy lady, or new recruit. There’s a bit about #family but this group doesn’t jive like the Fast and Furious folks, which the movie is clearly trying to emulate, so it never feels as natural. It also doesn’t help that some of them can’t handle the heavier stuff, making the aforementioned conflicting tones even more noticeable.
Again, the plot isn’t the point, it’s the action. In that department the movie delivers in spades to the point that you regret it not being on the biggest screen possible. However, if you’re going for franchise you have to build it out and actually give a bit of character and the movie struggles there. I want more 6 Underground for more great action but I could also get that from any other good action movie. A franchise has character. If Netflix isn’t interested in that then they won’t get far. Though, maybe they should consider going the James Bond route and Ryan Reynolds can just have a different team each time. In fact, that might be a better idea given the lack of character development in most Bay films. Netflix I hope you’re listening. I accept checks or life time subscriptions.