When you see the name of Michael Bay attached to a movie as a director you pretty much know exactly what to expect. While he makes some of the most brainless movies committed to celluloid, he delivers reliably. And with Netflix’s new big blockbuster movie 6 Underground, he doesn’t just deliver but ramps it up ten-fold (or six-fold) in arguably his biggest action spectacle of the past decade.
From the get-go, 6 Underground is pure adrenaline and testosterone-fuelled entertainment like only Bay can do. The film kicks off with an opening action sequence set in Florence, Italy that is easily one of the most high-octane action scenes you will see not just this year, but this decade. The combination of remarkable high-speed car chases, death-defying stunts, slow-motion shots, graphic violence, witty one-liners and a penchant for things that explode at just the slightest bump (except for the protagonist’s vehicle) is popcorn entertainment at its best.
It might be silly and ridiculous but is an absolute blast to watch and once again reaffirms that no one knows how to pull off action like this better than the Master of Bayhem. With an opening like this you know you are in for a wild ride and while that is true, it’s also a little disappointing as the director blows his load early and the rest of the film’s great action scenes fail to live up to this one.
It is worth pointing out though that these action scenes are not just remarkably executed, but real. As unlike Bay’s CGI-laden Transformers films, he returns to a lot of the practical action and stunt work that he built his early career on and it works. This time it’s the stuntmen that steal the show over the CGI magicians and Bay’s many scenic shots and rapid-moving action scenes are a delight at how well-executed they are. The scenes just feel so much more wild and energetic because of it. Yes, CGI is still present in many scenes, but its limited use makes everything more exciting.
6 Underground stars Ryan Reynolds as One, the billionaire head of a secret team of codenamed “ghosts” (Mélanie Laurent, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Adria Arjona, Corey Hawkins, Ben Hardy), individuals with particular skills and from different walks of life (spy, thief, sniper etc) who have had enough with the evils of this world and all fake their own deaths to take down the world’s most cruel tyrants in a way that governments and restrictive policies will not allow. The first tyrant in question hails from the fictional middle-eastern country of Turgistan and has a personal connection to One, making this mission even more fraught.
(Side note: They used Both the UAE and Italy as stand-ins for Turgistan, with the Italian language strangely even popping up in the dialogue of this supposed middle-eastern country.)
It’s a simple premise, but one that does enough to justify the on-screen mayhem and really you know with a Bay film that the story is secondary anyway. Still, the screenwriters create backstories for most of the characters. They present these in such a matter-of-fact way though, briefly explaining how certain members of this gang of six became ghosts, rather than giving you any form of real connection with the characters.
In fact, outside of Reynold’s witty and highly comedic performance here you care little else for the other characters. He easily gets the best lines, most scene-stealing moments and about the only one with any character development. Reynolds owns it though and true to his Deadpool form, he excels at delivering witty lines while performing great action scenes. Including some fourth-wall-breaking moments of comedy too. This is vintage Reynolds. Considering that writers Paul Wernick and Rhett Reese are both responsible for his Deadpool movies though this shouldn’t surprise as they have tailor-made the character for the actor exclusively.
As mentioned, 6 Underground starts off in incredibly bombastic fashion and the rest of the movie just continues from there. There is very little let-up in this movie with each scene racing along at a frantic pace. Literally. This is perhaps the film’s biggest weakness though, with the editing throughout being so frenetic that you struggle to really settle into the movie. For fans though, this is going to understandably just be small gripe, as it’s not uncommon for many of Bay’s films to feature this approach. Sadly, through all of that hyper-kinetic editing, it appears even editors Willian Goldenburg, Roger Barton and Calvin Wimmer got a little lost with the continuity as several cars and objects look utterly wrecked in one scene only to be in near perfect condition in another.
It’s one of those things that sets the recent Mission: Impossible and John Wick films (arguably the only other movies that could be more action-packed than this) apart from the rest, as they build up some long and well-choreographed action scenes that remain remarkably consistent. Here though, Bay relies on a Gatling gun barrage of short and frantic set-pieces within its larger action scenes and can be a little inconsistent with its execution.
The strong start to the movie is also just not able to be exceeded- or even matched – by what comes afterwards and even though the film does go big for its final action set pieces, they are just more of the same or possibly even less impressive than the strong start. Bullets fly, death-defying stunts are performed, the body-count escalates, and vehicles and buildings either still explode or completely disintegrate at the slightest touch. Though I will admit that some closing moments which feature a magnetic ship are entertaining and hilariously funny.
The movie is best enjoyed when you switch off your brain a little, especially a scene where a small pool somehow floods an entire floor with more water than it could possibly ever contain. The laws of logic and physics do not apply to 6 Underground.
I’ve said a lot of negative things about this movie because the filmmakers have just made it so easy to find fault with it, but I still thoroughly enjoyed 6 Underground and with there being a definite set-up for a sequel (there are other tyrants on One’s list) I wouldn’t mind seeing more of this just for the action alone. Movies like this, though, are not out to achieve cinematic perfection but just want to entertain. And in that regards, the film certain delivers. 6 Underground is a blast to watch – literally – and should please hardcore Michael Bay fans and provide those that aren’t with a thoroughly entertaining movie. It’s stupid, silly and even preposterous but with almost continual action and non-stop comedy, it entertains, even if you feel a little dumber for watching it.
Last Updated: December 18, 2019
6 Underground is peak Michael Bay, with non-stop explosive action. But it's also a film that struggles to live up to its pulsating opening and is filled with far too many stupid moments. Despite all this, it remains great fun and pure entertainment.
December 18, 2019 at 13:10
Ryan Reynolds helps this movie a lot, it also helped that I was deep into a bottle of whiskey when I watched this.