Subtlety. The art of being subtle. Artfulness, craftiness, guile. You don’t really get any of those from a Michael Bay extravaganza. In fact, we can safely assume that Michael Bay was never taught the word, such has been his career as a filmmaker all the way back to his début with 1995’s Bad Boys.
The word, its meaning, it’s execution, well you may just as well be speaking a foreign language if you tried to have such a discussion with him. Of course, subtlety doesn’t mean bad, far from it, but over the last three decades Bay’s films haven’t been far off veering from ridiculously entertaining (The Rock, Transformers) to plain ridiculous (any of the Transformers sequels, Armageddon) to just plain bloody awful (Pain & Gain, Pearl Harbour).
His latest, the brainchild of Deadpool and Zombieland scribes Rhett Rheese and Paul Wernick and their bestest bud Ryan Reynolds, is a cavalcade of everything we have come to expect from the latest dose of Bay-hem. Think of this as a greatest hits album with a world tour attached at the end: it’s everything you love – and, maybe more importantly, everything you don’t. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
6 Underground follows an elite team of “ghosts”, appropriately named after taking their deaths for one reason or another and brought together by a billionaire inventor (Reynolds) who wants to use their skills as doctors, soldiers, thieves, hitmen and much more to do good, to right the wrongs being committed across the globe. Beginning with a 20-odd minute car chase through the palatial streets of Italy, we follow the group as they aim to facilitate a coup in the country of Turgistan, removing its dictator leader and replacing him with his brother. Cue the explosions.
Given even more licence to blow, crash, bang, wallop, destroy, break, explode and disintegrate every on his path thanks to those risk takers over at Netflix, Bay revels in being let off the leash even more. Nothing is safe in 6 Underground and it seems even less was off the table with this one – magnets! Laughing gas! – and the screen is filled up with a cornucopia of madness that only Bay can conjure. Alas, perhaps more so than ever before, this is as vacuous, noisy and unmitigated as anything he has done before (aside from the irredeemable Pain & Gain) and, perhaps scarier, even more boring. Quantity doesn’t always mean quality.
Usually filling their films with gusto, sarcasm and avuncular witticisms, Wernick and Rheese’s usual chutzpah is missing here among all the noise and OTT camera acrobatics (nauseating to the nth degree) and most of the humour lands with a huge thud with not even Reynolds’ charisma and charm enough to see them through. He’s always watchable, mind, but this feels off more than on. Only Melanie Laurent really penetrates through the film’s obnoxiousness with grace and panache, saving the film from landing with a thud.
It’s no real surprise that it was Netflix that stumped up the $150million budget for this one as, released in theatres, this may have been a bomb as big as the fireballs that shoot into the sky throughout this one. A few decent set pieces can’t save this one from its deserved place thousands of feet underground.
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Action, Thriller | USA, 2019 | 15| 13th December 2019 | Netflix (Global) | Dir.Michael Bay | Ryan Reynolds, Mélanie Laurent, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Ben Hardy, Dave Franco, Corey Hawkins, Adria Arjona