Published Dec 12, 2019The tagline for 6 Underground, the new movie from action figure Michael Bay, is: "They say no one can save the world. Meet no one."
This is obviously not a subtle or tasteful film. It's a wildly over-the-top action blockbuster, which is exactly what you'd expect coming from a guy who has directed five Transformers movies. And while this is slightly more coherent than Transformers, it's a difference of degree and not of kind.
Ryan Reynolds stars as One, a billionaire who faked his own death and now runs a militia of off-the-grid "ghosts," who are referred to by number rather than name. They operate outside of the law in order to take down bad guys, and their main target is the cruel dictator of a fictional Middle Eastern nation called Turgistan. (That's actual name of a province in the former Sasanian Empire, located in present-day Pakistan, but sounds suspiciously like screenwriters Paul Wernick and Rhett Reese forgot the name of Turkmenistan and no one bothered to look it up.) With the way 6 Underground glorifies its American-led coup, the film seems to come from an alternate reality in which the Iraq War turned out great and Western interventionism is widely considered an excellent idea.
It's best not to think about the moral quandary of what qualifies 6 Underground's vigilantes to be judge, jury and executioners — there's not the slightest suggestion that the filmmakers thought about it either. Instead, just get dazzled by all the explosions. That's easy to do, since the film begins with a seemingly endless car chase through the streets of Florence, resulting in the deaths of innumerable pedestrians and fruit stands.
As is director Michael Bay's bad habit, he relies on far too many closeups and fast cuts, making the action sequences often more disorienting than they are exciting. That's a shame, since there are a few dazzling set pieces here: a penthouse with a rooftop pool is a beautifully opulent stage for a high-altitude heist gone bad, while a showdown on a yacht uses some nifty mega-powerful magnets. The budget is $150 million, so Bay has plenty of money to blow on glitzy locations and absurd pyrotechnics. He's an auteur of idiocy, and 6 Underground is his mission statement.
Things go awry when 6 Underground attempts to be more than just another shoot-em-up. The film occasionally jumps into the past to share characters' backstories, but the exposition is more confusing than clarifying; turns out that it's hard to feel much empathy for a group of nameless militants.
6 Underground's comic elements similarly fall a little flat. With slapstick meta humour mixed with cartoonish slo-mo gore, Bay is blatantly attempting to rip off Deadpool — and the casting of Reynolds feels cynical, since the actor is called on to recreate many of Deadpool's comedic beats. But Bay isn't raunchy enough to pull it off; 6 Underground is the kind of film that considers a nun giving the middle finger to be the height of edgy humour.
It certainly doesn't have brains, but 6 Underground has enough brawn to make it a perfectly entertaining way to waste two hours. They say no one wants to sit through a Michael Bay movie after Transformers. Meet no one.