6 Underground is the new film from director Michael Bay. Some of Bay’s early films were quite fun, especially The Rock but that’s all down to the excellent cast. As he has become more successful though Bay has started to show more confidence and this has come with more excess. Nothing about Bay’s latest films shows any reservation or decorum. Not the action which is ridiculous, not the humour which is unrefined, not the editing which is frenetic, not the writing which is illogical and not the violence which is gratuitous. Admittedly these things in isolation don’t necessarily stop a movie being fun but all together it can be too much and can leave you feeling frustrated. Now here he is working with Netflix who are well known for giving their collaborators a lot of money and free reign. These are the last things you want to give in combination to Michael Bay.
To be fair 6 Underground starts with a pretty impressive car chase but after this point it gets pretty dumb pretty quickly. In fact what it feels like is someone parodying Michael Bay with every cut, every fight and every camera move being ramped up to number one hundred and stupid. Even though it isn’t showing in cinemas it feels like the filmic equivalent of someone repeatedly taking great handfuls of popcorn and throwing them in your face. It might make you laugh at first and the occasional tasty bit might land right but it quickly becomes annoying and you wouldn’t choose to repeat the experience.
The plot, as much as I am able to care about it, has six people who have taken themselves off the grid so that they can engage in clandestine missions to make the world a better place. Within the context of the narrative they do offer some service to the global community but my idea of making the world a better place doesn’t involve so much racial stereotyping, such a flippant approach to Middle Eastern politics and the view that human life is precious up until the point that it might be entertaining to see someone flipped over the bonnet of a car or having their head blown up.
The violence in the film is cartoony but graphic and there is a snippet of dialogue where someone sees the carnage of one brutal battle and addresses the perpetrator, a fellow member of the hero crew who doesn’t recognise her own excess, as follows.
“You did this?”
You suspect that Bay has been the middle one in this same conversation at some point.
Ryan Reynolds heads up the cast but his usual shtick, while fitfully amusing, is beginning to get old. Since first playing Deadpool in 2009 he has essentially rolled out the same character in The Proposal, Green Lantern, Life, The Hitman’s bodyguard, Detective Pikachu, Hobbs & Shaw, the BT broadband adverts and two Deadpool movies. It would be nice to see him do something different again but this is not that film. Mélanie Laurant is cool and seeing her in this you think she should do more high profile films, but not this one.
Despite these observations I didn’t hate 6 Underground (I think it caught me in a good mood) and if you’ve got a couple of hours with nothing to do you might be amused but I can’t put my hand on my heart and tell you it’s a good movie. It feels like one of those deliberately so bad it’s good films like Sharknado. I don’t think that’s what Bay was pushing for though and it didn’t work if he was.
The Ripley Factor:
The film has strong and skilled women but unfortunately positive and unexploitative gender representation is not something that Michael Bay is even handed about either.