6 UNDERGROUND may be the most Michael Bay-est Michael Bay movie of his career. That’s both a wonderful and terrible thing. It’s loud, obnoxious, exciting, juvenile, over-the-top, explosive (duh), gorgeously-shot, near-incoherent and a total blast, even if you don’t necessarily feel good about it. It’s every Michael Bayism he’s ever done, tossed into a blender, pureed, poured into a glass, set on fire and served on a tray with fireworks going off around it. Your enjoyement of 6 UNDERGROUND comes down to one simple question: Does all of the above sound like a good time to you?
Bay has made a hell of a string of films in his career thus far, setting the tone early on as an even more hyperkinetic clone of the legendary Tony Scott with BAD BOYS and THE ROCK, then moving on to big-budget fare like ARMAGEDDON and PEARL HARBOR before disappearing into the TRANSFORMERS franchise for many years, re-emerging with some true gems like PAIN AND GAIN and the criminally underrated 13 HOURS. In all that time, his style has been clearly defined and you are either “in” or “out” for what he has to offer. To get my bias out of the way off the top, I’m of the “in” category. While I recognize the silly, bombastic, juvenile and off-kilter elements of his work, I absolutely love the sheer magnitude of beautiful carnage he brings to the screen and appreciate those efforts justly. I firmly believe that this paves the way for where you fall with 6 UNDERGROUND. Some people will absolutely hate this film. Some will absolutely love it. (The first 20 minutes of the film is actually the perfect definition of “What’s a Michael Bay film?” so keep that in your back pocket when you encounter such a thing.)
The story is…look, the story is blahs-ville, even if DEADPOOL writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick pieced it together. You’ve seen it a hundred times in a hundred movies, all echoing the same kind of effort. A group of highly-trained, uniquely-specialized characters convene to take on an impossible mission. In this case, it’s taking out a dictator in a fictional middle-eastern country in order to install a much nicer one. And that’s all just window dressing for the real reason we’re here; Bayhem. Plain and simple. And, oh boy, is there Bayhem. You want a wild car chase through the streets of Italy with slow-mo car flips, bodies ejected from vehicles in vicious style while making bad jokes from the back seat? Check. You want a skyscraper action scene with shootouts, ziplines, parkour and plenty of bloody takedowns? Done. You want a finale on a mega yacht that incorporates mano y mano brawls, shootouts, heads blown apart and a really wild weapon that uses magnets to toss bad guys around like magnets? Sign here, please. Oh, what’s that? Does Bay bring his hyper-sexual presentation of women in skirts and heels who also happen to be badasses to the show? You betcha (and to note, I have ZERO problem with this, especially when it also involves my favorite WWII-era theater owner Shosanna, the lovely Melanie Laurent).
Tossed-to-the-wind plotting aside, the actors all show plenty of pizazz and zip, all in that off-kilter Michael Bay way. Ryan Reynolds leads the pack as “One”, a billionaire inventor who starts this little Black Ops club when he sees bad people doing bad things around the world. His catch is that his team members need to “die” in order to conduct these covert ops, so as to have complete freedom to get the job done. It’s not as cleverly presented as it should be, but it does the trick. Reynolds exudes his usual charm and charisma and elevates the whole project, even if I can’t help but feel he could really shine in a more serious-minded Michael Bay role, much like John Krasinski did with 13 HOURS. Reynolds could slay it in a Jack-Ryan style thriller with Bay and hopefully 6 UNDERGROUND opens up the doors for them to take on something less “fun” and more serious down the line (but, still with Bayhem, of course).
The rest of the cast is a diverse group of playful pros and they’re all in on the game. No one is taking home golden trophies for this one, but they’re not trying to. Melanie Laurent is stunning and awesome in her role as the most badass of the group, who also has a kinky lust for the wacky hitman played by Manuel Garcia-Rulfo. Ben Hardy doesn’t do much more than hop around (no, really), but he has a level of intensity that makes me think he’s primed for some more meaty action role material. Adria Arjona is the “doctor” of the group and feels like the most aimless of the crew, although she certainly has some fun with it all. The standout of the supporting cast is Corey Hawkins, who is the most level-headed of the batch and proves to be a capable and relatable “good guy”. While the 24 gig didn’t work out, Hawkins has a knack for the action stuff, so if they continue this little Bayriffic journey I hope he’s included in the festivities. As far as villains go, it’s pretty much all-henchmen-all-the-time with the blabbering dictator character basically playing as a caricature of every evil middle-eastern dictator we’ve ever seen. The film definitely would’ve benefitted for some more colorful villains, but alas they are not to be found here.
What 6 UNDERGROUND represents is another notch in Netflix’s belt of allowing a filmmaker to go full-on unhinged with results that toggle between perfect brilliance and utter lack of control. The film is a mess, but in the best possible way. It’s Michael Bay being allowed to just do what he wants. It’s like the scene in DAYS OF THUNDER where Robert Duvall has Tom Cruise‘s Cole Trickle race around the track for 50 laps his way and then 50 laps Duvall’s way to see which is better. Obviously, Duvall’s way is better and gets through the 50 laps without incident. Cruise’s way shreds the tires and proves that he needs some guidance to help win the race without issue. 6 UNDERGROUND is the shredded tires, but it still gets around the race track. So, for you Bay fans, rest easy, this is well within your expectations and, for those not attuned to the Baytastic, it’s easy enough to avoid.