Netflix has come a long way when it comes to it’s film purchases… after all the leap from barely decent action B-movies to barely decent action A-movies must have been expensive, but here we are.
Proving that the David Ayer/Will Smith dud, Bright, was no fluke we now have 6 Underground, an extraordinarily obnoxious bone breaker that teams the famously intolerant-to-subtlety Michael Bay with the famously motor-mouthed Ryan Reynolds.
Knowing full well the faults of these two men, I’ve vigorously defended them both over the years; Reynolds during his pre-Deadpool years (The Voices is wonderful and he is usually by far the best thing in whatever piece of crap he was in); Bay for his early stuff like Bad Boys and The Rock before he descended into Transformers hell, but I simply can’t defend them here…
A mysterious billionaire inventor, known only as “1” has assembled a crack team of skilled individuals, convinced them to fake their deaths, assume numbered codenamed of their own and enlisted them as his own private elite wetwork squad, tasked with hunting down and murdering known terrorists, warlords and the like. But before you can say “John Travolta’s plan in Swordfish”, 1 finds himself one member short after a chaotic mission in Italy goes wildly awry and has to replace his fallen soldier with the newly christened “7”, a talented sniper with a traumatic past. While 1 closes in on his intended target, a middle eastern dictator overly fond of gas attacks, 7 and the rest of the crew start to openly debate his “no names, no relationships” rules.
Can this seriously dysfunctional group put their differences aside in order to complete a mission that could be labelled suicidal at best, or will 1’s bloody dream finally get some traction?
6 Underground, simply put, allows both men to engage in the worst parts of their on-screen habits – virtually non-stop – for the sheer entirely of the running time and to list them all would mean this review would be required to be a multi-parter but unlike Bay and Reynolds, I have some sense of restraint.
Let’s start with Bay, whose bad habits are infused into this project at it’s very fibre like he birthed it himself from a test tube full of his DNA. Firstly, Bay is still labouring under the misguided belief that taking your movie and shooting and editing it like a two hour plus trailer makes it tremendously exciting when in actually makes it confusing as hell. His attention to plot is absolute zero, insisting on introducing his cast (who you come to strongly suspect are numbered and not named simply because Bay can’t be fucked to learn them) in distracting flashbacks that fill in a backstory you don’t remember asking for; this in turn trips over the OTHER flashbacks that frequently pop up who attempt to achieve everything from giving us a different perspective on an action scene to merely setting up a joke and to say that the result is a tangled mess is an understatement but it ends up being the cinematic equivalent of boxed up Christmas lights or some pocketed headphones.
The action is as hyperactive as you’d expect of the hyperbolic director but there’s a bizarre tone here that he obviously believes is hilarious but instead leaves the audience confused. For example, the amount of innocent civilians wiped out by the frenetic opening car chase through Italy is hugely confusing as every other poor bastard driving a Vespa gets fatally sideswiped by our “heroes” who seem to have forgotten that they’re in this mess TO SAVE PEOPLE.
But where Bay seems to think inflicting swift, violent death onto unsuspecting passers by is a massive rib tickle, he turns his ghoulish humor up to the max for any villains who amass the huge, yet oddly boring, bodycount. A grenade breaks the nose of a mafia thug before detonating the car he’s driving into shrapnel, a man is shot through his cigar into his laughing mouth, teeth are shattered and brains are splattered and you wonder that if Bay had paid as much attention to the film in full as he does micro moments of extreme violence, the movie would a much more fun experience instead of the joyless orgy of videogame style excess it’s turned out to be. Even the director’s trademark whoring for product placement is solidly in effect with an ad for red bull appearing slap bang in the middle of the screen, barely 20 seconds in emblazoned on the forehead of it’s lead actor (it’s on a helmet – Reynolds didn’t tattoo it on or anything).
Oh, yes. Reynolds.
You can’t strictly claim our favorite foul mouthed Canadian gives a bad performance as technically he doesn’t give one at all as his dialogue is split up into what can be described as three separate categories:
The first is pretty much all of the exposition the film has to muster plus with the added bonus of retching up the occasional clanger of a motivational speech: “We’re all gonna die. We might as well do it while we’re alive.” is a particular head scratcher. The second section -and about a quarter of the dialogue spoken by anyone in the entire film – is mostly of the “GO! GO! GO!” variety and the third is Reynolds trademark ad-libbing which comes at you at an unmerciful rate. Tellingly, as I’m sure you’ve already figured out, only the first category requires any actual scripting and the wildly broad performances from the whole cast are tailored to fit the movie they’re in so no one is – to the letter of the law – awful… I guess.
If you was to put a gun to my head (how I assume Bay got funding for his video game style fever dream) and demanded that I give you some positive points then I guess I’d say that the production values are excellent (visually, it’s impossible for Bay to compose a bad shot) and some of the overblown, overlong sequences are legitimately awesome in scope – a scene where a boat is transformed into a massive magnet and repeatedly ragdolls everything on board that has even a hint of metal is at least strikingly different.
Everything is colourful and weird and you wonder why Bay doesn’t just put all his obnoxious, adolescent, black humor to good use, just make a Saint’s Row adaptation instead and get it all out of his system.
But for now, thanks to Netflix, Bay’s entered our homes whether we want him too or not and he overstayed his welcome in pretty short order.
6 Underground? Try 6 FEET Underground.