If you’re scratching your head at that quote up top, it’s okay because that’s what I did for the entire duration of this film. And it’s not only because it doesn’t make any sense, but because it’s a line written by two of today’s biggest players in Hollywood: Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick. After churning out both Zombieland and Deadpool over the past decade, you’d think at this point in their careers their names would be attached to something bigger and better. Instead, with the help of the CGI GOD himself, they’ve gone on to create something badder and blander.
Michael Bay’s latest film, 6 Underground, isn’t his worst one, but it sure is one of his loudest and most ludicrous. Don’t get me wrong, he’s still a master when it comes to orchestrating giant action set pieces, but here he outdoes himself in all of the worst ways. The first 15 minutes of the film are a prime example. The opening scene is a combination of flashbacks - which coincides with another problem I had with this film - and a car chase in Italy. Now, the setting shouldn’t be important because a car chase is a car chase, but between all of the blatant product placement, the risque hand gestures that each pedestrian gives our characters as they mow down the entire city, and the infinite amount of nuns that appear throughout the sequence, you can’t help but feel like Bay is only using ethnic stereotypes for his amusement.
The sequence cuts furiously between several of the main characters in the car being chased, a flashback of how they got into the car chase in the first place, and many more flashbacks of how and why the team was created. The editing is jarring and will leave you beyond disoriented. That was the other issue I had with this film. It’s so fast-paced that at times it’s hard to discern where in the film’s timeline you actually are. I’m not kidding when I say that there are multiple times even after the opening scene where a flashback occurs within a flashback.
The first 15 minutes sets the tone of the film in the worst possible way by establishing just how much an overload to the senses it is. Despite being overwhelmingly overwhelming though, there are admittedly some pretty stylish sequences too. In particular, there’s one involving a swimming pool in a Penthouse suite, but that’s all I’ll say.
*Minor Spoilers Ahead*
The film revolves around a team of “ghosts,” or people with a unique set of skills that have been convinced to fake their deaths so that they can do something more meaningful with their lives. The “something more meaningful” being combatting all of the “horrors of the world.” And these “horrors” can range from sleeper-cell terrorists to career criminals, but their main adversary in this film is the ruthless dictator of a fictional country called Turgistan.
When we first meet the team, there are only 6 members and that number is pretty much arbitrary. It’s never explained why there are only 6 or why that seems to be the cap for the team, but it is what it is. Unfortunately one of them gets killed in the film’s aforementioned opening car chase though, which forces them to recruit a replacement.
Every team member is a broken person, having experienced some trauma or feeling the need to redeem themselves from a life full of bad decisions. While the motivation makes sense, what doesn’t make sense is just how quickly each member joins this cause without some guarantee that they actually will make a difference. Prior to when we meet these characters, none of them have ever successfully completed a mission together. This entire film is their first go-around. Even the new recruit points out just how ridiculous it is for them to not have completed a mission yet after he fakes his own death. The film also ends with Ryan Reynolds’s character questioning the purpose of the team after realizing that he may have something to live for himself! If the main characters aren’t even bothering to care for the film’s largest plot point, then why should we care?
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
*Minor Spoilers Ahead*
The film is lead by Ryan Reynolds, and he plays One a.k.a The Billionaire. All of the characters go by numbers in this film, by the way. He’s joined by Mélanie Laurent (Two), Manuel Garcia-Rulfo (Three), Adria Arjona (Four), Ben Hardy (Five) and Corey Hawkins (Seven). Six, played by Dave Franco, is the team member killed in the opening sequence, which results in him being replaced by Hawkins’ character.
For the most part, I had no problems with the cast or the casting. I understood the roles that each of them were playing. Ryan Reynolds is, as always, playing himself, but simultaneously I feel like he attempts to channel Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark. I say that just because his character is rich, and he never lets your forget it.
Everyone is okay, but the two biggest standouts are Laurent and Garcia-Rulfo. This is honestly the most fun I’ve seen Laurent have with a role since first seeing her in Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds. She’s fierce, but she’s also wild. It’s refreshing. Garcia-Rulfo, on the other hand, gives the most emotionally charged performance. Between the flashback showing us why he chose to give up his life and his relationship with Laurent’s character, he’s the character you root for the most. Corey Hawkins also gives a good performance, though it’s scaled back compared to the many other roles we’ve seen him play. Arjona and Hardy show promise, but ultimately become background noise.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
As mentioned before, Michael Bay still knows how to put together a spectacle, but his work is far from flawless in 6 Underground. The CGI in this film is terrible. I wish I could count the times I cringed every time a fake body dropped after being barraged with bullets or blown back from an explosion. Compared to a lot of his other work, there seems to be slightly less attention put into the special effects here.
While there is little makeup used in the film, it is also pretty bad. There’s a scene where several characters have to wear disguises, and they literally wear what looks like “dollar store” prosthetics. Also, in this same scene, we see that Ryan Reynolds’ character’s idea of a perfect disguise is just a wig. In regards to the set design, I wish I could comment, but many of the sets are barely around long enough to really dissect them.
“We’re All Going To Die. We May As Well Do It While We’re Alive.”
Genre: Adventure. Action. Comedy.
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
The sound design is also very messy. I can’t emphasize just how bombastic this film is. I’m actually relieved that it was released on Netflix because I can’t imagine just how horrible it might be to experience in a theater or even IMAX.
One of the film’s only saving graces and one of my favorite aspects about it is Lorne Balfe’s score. Balfe, whose work also shined in Mission: Impossible - Fallout does a great job at setting the tone for the film and heightening the tension throughout all of the action sequences.
Overall, with the exception of some humor and most of the action sequences, 6 Underground feels like a cheap attempt at a good time and a blend of all the worst aspects from all of the best action movies. With far better offerings in theaters and on Netflix, perhaps it’ll take a hint from it’s own name and stay beneath the surface.