How to sum up 6 Underground, Netflix’s latest offering, starring Ryan Reynolds? Things go boom, bullets fly amid impossible stunts, and there’s blood – lots of it.
In a nutshell, all the Michael Bay action set pieces (cuts, shaky cam, the works) are accounted for. He peppers in the usual music video film language and aesthetic you expect. There’s also the matter of blood and gore – from a disembodied eyeball dangling by its optic nerve to a head exploded by a flash bang.
What’s it about? Ryan Reynolds is One, the leader of a covert action team that fakes the deaths of its members and only refers to each other as numbers. Whoever they were before is deceased (a ghost). One recruits the six key players in flashbacks and runs into the evil tyrant, Rovach (Lior Raz, Operation Finale), they have to stop from causing the collapse of his own country. Pretty basic, familiar territory.
It’s a plot ripped from headlines (i.e., the crisis in Syria). Half the movie sets up the middling Bond villain and the other half the origin story in which Reynolds sets up the team.
Despotic foe Rovach could have been more interesting if Bay and the script gave him more depth than “stock bad guy with a boat.”
Bay borrows from everything to pick up the pace and keep things interesting. The first twenty minutes involve one big Fast & Furious-style car chase. During it, a bleeding team member (Two, played by Melanie Laurent of Inglourious Basterds) gets sutured while firing back at pursuers. Dave Franco was the driver and looks way less trustworthy at the wheel than Vin Diesel. I would’ve liked to see what else Franco had to offer this picture but he didn’t make it beyond the first act (minor spoiler).
And 6 Underground begins with narration: “What if I told you I know what it’s like to be dead?” That’s the opening sentence for a Deadpool speech if there ever was one. Surprisingly, the only hero One’s accused of being like is Bruce Wayne. Then he goes into how ghosts haunt the living as an illustration of his new calling in life – clandestine operative.
Ryan Reynolds brings his trademark sarcasm but also possesses a good heart – his normal schtick. Acting like he doesn’t care, he swiftly jumps into risking his life to save others during a gas attack by Rovach on his own people. That puts them at odds and One makes bringing the tyrant to justice his mission.
Oh, and One is some kind of billionaire inventor; but why should you care? It means he’s less of a normie (I guess). Yes, a science prodigy, he got rich off magnets (they explain it) which only becomes important when he rigs a yacht full of armed thugs to a tricky device that magnetizes everything. It results in a unique visual that’d make Magneto blush – and that’s the sole detectable reason for this plot device as far as I can figure.
Reynolds isn’t the only cast member with ties to a comic franchise. Adria Arjona, who plays agent Five, starred on Good Omens and will be in Morbius next year. She shows promise here but if it weren’t for a rising profile in cinema, her part would be forgettable outside her chutzpah in the middle of the most frenetic action scenes.
6 Underground is standard fare for a fast-paced time killer but I didn’t find it terribly distracting. You’ve seen 10 movies with this plot (in 2019 alone). A third of them are by Michael Bay and most of them are on Netflix. They all end roughly the same way too: six (or more) assemble to go on a special-ops assault and learn the value of teamwork. They also think of themselves as a family when all is said and done, however tenuously. What holds them together? They “blow shit up awfully loud.” That line is a credo to end all Michael Bay movies with, I think.
- Ryan Reynolds.
- Film moves along pretty quickly.
- At least it's not Polar.
- Rather derivative.
- Typical Bay shenanigans and flash.