For a long while, a trend circled the Internet to poke fun at director Michael Bay for the overabundance of explosions in all of his films. The clips would show something simple like a deck of cards falling, followed by an unreasonably big explosion, and would conclude with “directed by Michael Bay.” That internet meme is Bay’s newest film, 6 Underground, in a nutshell. This movie will give most viewers a headache by the five minute mark, which doesn’t bode well for a film with a runtime above two hours. Bay doesn’t put enough effort into anything but the stunts and objectification of women enough to make any of this high-octane thriller compelling or interesting to watch.
The plot of 6 Underground isn’t entirely clear until 30 minutes in, because the film begins with a large chase scene through the streets of Florence, Italy. I would explain what the objective of this prolonged action sequence is other than introducing the characters, but I still have no clue. It’s clear that Bay simply wanted to throw violence at the screen and blow up people, so he does that without any clear purpose. It isn’t a bad thing to open a film with an action scene somewhat unrelated to the rest of the narrative; after all, other great movies such as Mission: Impossible–Rogue Nation or even Saving Private Ryan have done the same and worked wonders. However, 6 Underground’s opening sequence just feels like watching a poorly shot YouTube video of “cool stunts” for half an hour.
Once the plot is finally introduced, it is made clear that we are following a group of covert agents who have faked their deaths in order to more effectively help the world. This group is led by an eccentric billionaire (Ryan Reynolds) who has a mission to displace the evil dictator of a Middle Eastern country with the intent of creating peace in the war-torn land. Once this plot is introduced, then about 40 minutes is devoted to showing how and why each member of the team faked their deaths (except for the female members of the team, because women don’t matter, right?). Once this section of the movie clears, which is more than halfway through the movie, then it finally gets to the actual plot.
It goes without saying that 6 Underground is a complete mess, but then again, what did we expect from Michael Bay at this point in his career? A good chunk of the people who watch this movie will just expect mindless action, so that could be why he neglects to have an interesting plot. Unfortunately, what truly kills this movie from even being the slightest bit enjoyable is the manner in which the action is edited. If the action was well-filmed and executed, then Bay could be free to make this movie as ridiculous and stupid as he wanted because he would have the mindless fun to fall back on. What he does instead is rely on quick cuts and shaky-cam techniques, making the action confusing and muddled. I could tell the events happening were fun and exciting, but since there are cuts every half-second it is impossible to truly take in and enjoy the constant explosions and car crashes. Watching this movie is like trying to watch American Ninja Warrior while in an operating washing machine: it’s easy to tell that the stunt performing is fantastic but exterior forces are preventing enjoyment.
The one plus this movie has going for it is the stunt performing. If it weren’t for Bay’s scattershot direction, then the stunt performers would probably carry the movie on their back, fully realizing each sequence. One recent film that has similar plot issues to 6 Underground is John Wick: Chapter 3–Parabellum, but in that case the stunts are so well performed that the film ends up rising above its plot issues. Bay needed to film his chase scenes more clearly in order for this project to work at all, but he settles for the worst kind of action filmmaking, letting the entire movie sink. The only time his method of filming works is during some slow motion sequences near the second half of the movie, but these glimpses of hope aren’t enough to make it worth watching.
6 Underground is only good when not paying attention to it. If you have it on in the background while doing something else more important then it might be watchable, but in any other scenario it’s not effective. It feels like Bay made this movie to screw around with fireworks for a couple months, but then once he was done filming he didn’t actually care about the finished product, so all of the editing was done in a week. Even Ryan Reynolds couldn’t make this movie fun; his jokes don’t land for the first time since Deadpool was released. 6 Underground is a misogynistic mess, and almost any other movie on Netflix would be more enjoyable to pay attention to.
I give 6 Underground a D.