6 Underground movie review: Michael Bay destroys Ryan Reynolds’ goodwill with one of the worst Netflix originals ever
Director - Michael Bay
Cast - Ryan Reynolds, Mélanie Laurent, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Ben Hardy, Adria Arjona, Dave Franco, Corey Hawkins
It’s one thing for Netflix to be in the Martin Scorsese business, but it’s a whole ’nother thing altogether to be in the Michael Bay business. Of all the filmmakers who’ve have been seduced by the luxuries of streaming — from Scorsese to Noah Baumbach; Bong Joon-ho to David Fincher — Michael Bay is the only one who should have been kept at a safe distance.
Allowing him to abuse the creative freedom that Netflix prides itself on offering its directors is like handing a convicted arsonist a gallon of gasoline. There isn’t a single idea that Bay can’t destroy by simply deciding to film it, and now that he’s got his sweaty hands on custom-made compact digital cameras, he insists on sticking them where the sun don’t shine.
Watch the 6 Underground trailer here
In the utterly unbearable opening car chase itself, Bay somehow films from underneath the soles of Ryan Reynolds’ shoes, from atop Ben Hardy’s head, and literally centimetres from Melanie Laurent’s bare skin. High on the thrill of knowing that he could do it, Bay never stopped and wondered if he should.
The sequence is an ideal endurance test for the all-out assault that is to follow — a little bit of light waterboarding before the dismemberment, if you will. At no point is the geography of the chase clear, the villains are vaguely defined, and the objective is fuzzy. There are gross-out gags and punchlines that may or may not offend the Catholic Church. To add to the general sense of confusion, Bay edits the thing so haphazardly that it begins to feel like a slap across the face of Christopher McQuarrie’s Mission: Impossible - Fallout and George Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road, masterclasses in how to cut action movies.
I have decided that Netflix should start offering a points system to viewers who are able to sit through scenes such as this. Every 10 minutes earns you 10 points. There could be a running scoreboard and everything.
Certainly, anyone who manages to survive the entirety of 6 Underground will immediately secure a massive lead for themselves, because not only is it one of the worst films of the year, it is one of the most staggeringly self-indulgent drags in recent memory. People can complain about The Irishman’s three-and-a-half hour runtime or Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’s aimlessness as unnecessary extravagances, but you haven’t witnessed a creative flex more obnoxious than Michael Bay opening his two-hour film with a 20 minute chase sequence that feels like an eternity. My headache started sometime around when the third casual bystander had been run over, and lasted pretty much until Bay’s name popped up in the end credits, finally loosening the invisible shackles on my wrists and allowing me to hit the home button on my remote.
Bay shouldn’t be left to his own devices; he should be closely supervised. This is perhaps why his best films were the ones produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, the only one who could keep filmmaker’s famous ego in line. For what is 6 Underground if not an explosion of one man’s worst excesses? It’s so overwhelming that even Ryan Reynolds, in all his wise-cracking glory, isn’t enough to rein it in. It’s ironic that Netflix released the film just a week after Marriage Story, a perfect example of a filmmaker not getting in the way of his story.
I’d imagine certain changes were made to Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick’s screenplay — this is the duo’s fourth collaboration with Reynolds, after the two Deadpools and the underrated Life — because 6 Underground has none of that cracking comedic energy of their previous films. It is, instead, dangerously dependent on poorly orchestrated action set-pieces, intercut with baffling character beats, and far too dumb to dabble in politics (which is what it inevitably ends up doing).
There is a brief moment towards the end of the film, involving a war criminal who looks a bit like Masterchef Australia’s George, which shouldn’t have been put in. It is essentially a recreation of a terrible, terrible real-world incident that Bay, operating at his tone-deaf worst, decides to present like documentary footage, bringing a sense of realism to what is basically a live-action cartoon. It reminded my of a similar blink-and-miss moment in Todd Phillips’ The Hangover Part II, in which Mr Chow recreated one of the most enduring images to emerge out of the Vietnam war.
These films should stay in their lane, but with Michael Bay at the wheel, they’d be lucky if they don’t end in the bottom of a lake.