When director Michael Bay gets handed $150 million from Netflix to make a movie you can be guaranteed that he’s going to make something pretty insane. Where in the past he has felt a little hamstrung by studio expectations or interference, his latest effort feels like a return to form. For Netflix, 6 Underground is an expensive gamble, being their second most costly original production, however entrusting it to Bay and snagging Ryan Reynolds to play lead, seems a little less risky. The trailer for the film barely gives anything away except that you can expect a lot of explosions, car chases, wide sweeping scenic shots and tight shaky cam closeups. So if you’re into big dumb blockbusters and have a decent television and sound system at home, then grab yourself some popcorn and settle in.
We’re introduced to One (Ryan Reynolds), a nameless billionaire who recruits people with special skills to assist him in his mission of getting rid of some seriously evil people. The team consists of Two (Melanie Laurent), the CIA spy, Three (Manuel Garcia Rulfo) the hitman, Four (Ben Hardy), the thief and parkour specialist, Five (Adria Arjona) the doctor, and Six (Dave Franco) the driver. Staging a coup to remove the dictatorial leader of Turgistan Rovach Alimov (Lior Raz) with his more democratically minded brother Murat Alimov (Payman Maadi) is not a simple task, but this rag tag group of specialists will need to get it done.
The script by Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick (Deadpool) is thin and scrappy and the execution during the first act is messy and convoluted. Jumping forwards and backwards in time to try and give exposition and context whilst Reynolds narrates. It’s not until the script sticks to forward propulsion that the story starts to feel settled. The film feels like One is creating his own private vigilante Mission: Impossible meets Fast and Furious squad, intent on correcting some of the world’s more egregious mistakes because politicians suck and get nothing done. And the amount of plotholes in this film are enough to sink its credibility against much better action espionage type movies. Yet somehow it never feels boring and a lot of that can be attributed to Bay’s lively direction, frenetic editing and the character interactions and banter. It also helps that they leave a soft ending to the film that opens it up to the possibility of a sequel or franchise.
Admittedly the real reason we’re watching this movie is for the Bayhem and we are not left wanting. There are explosions, car chases, gun fights, explosions, close combat fist fights, parkour, a woman being hit in the face by a flying pigeon in slow-motion and more explosions. And that’s just the first 15 minutes. Bay recruits the best stunt people in the business to be run over, shot at, thrown off buildings; as well as blowing up and flipping cars for your viewing pleasure. Though the most interesting choice here is his extensive use of parkour and GoPro footage, it’s dynamic but it can also be jarring with all the editing. There’s also a set piece using some intricately placed high frequency sound emitters and a Dolby THX sound effect that’s put to amusing use.
Reynolds heads up the ensemble cast as the occasionally quippy, sometimes arrogant and mostly loud character typecast. The rest of the group don’t get much opportunity for character development except new recruit Seven (Corey Hawkins), a former sniper suffering PTSD after being the sole survivor in a botched mission. Manuel Garcia Rulfo’s Three is probably the most fun to watch as the grouchy hitman who clearly enjoys killing bad guys. But their interactions, banter and the fact that they’re all pretty good looking goes a long way to keeping your eyeballs fixed.
Bay’s 6 Underground is the sort of dumb blockbuster that doesn’t require nor does it expect the viewer to invest too much brain power in watching. It definitely does miss out on getting to have its aggressive energy and visual spectacle on a much bigger screen with surround sound. The film is about being able to showcase as many explosions, stunt sequences and good looking people in the 127 minute run-time.
THREE STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
6 Underground is currently streaming on Netflix Australia