Director Michael Bay’s filmography is both a blessing and also a bit frustrating. In the 90s he gave us some of the best action films ever made, such as Bad Boys, The Rock (easily his best film), and Armageddon. And then Pearl Harbor happened. Not sure why they thought combining Bay and basically almost ripping off the success of Titanic would actually work. But then we returned to form with a sequel to Bad Boys and the very underrated The Island. And then…Transformers happened…and kept happening…and kept happening…with Pain & Gain and 13 Hours…two okayish films, snuck in there during brief breaks from robots in disguise…and yeah, things turned to shit quickly. Other than the first Transformers (I guess) and a couple of cool shots in Dark of the Moon…the Transformers series felt like Michael Bay on autopilot. He knew the script was shit, but he did his job…but maybe his heart wasn’t in it anymore. But now that they kicked his ass to the curb and he didn’t do Bumblebee (thank the fuck Christ, I know people love it, I thought it was shit), we get the new 6 UNDERGROUND, his first film for Netflix. And despite it not clicking with critics, it clicked with me. It is easily his best film since Bad Boys II and The Island, and it seemed like Bay was actually having fun again with his so-called “Bayhem.”
And while the editing is EXTREMELY jarring, I still kind of loved this film. Bay is back with another R rated actioner, and he wears that R rating on his sleeve, with some of the most insane brutal kills with tons of guts and gore that it somehow out does the carnage from Bad Boys II. And Ryan Reynolds is the main lead in this and he is…well…Ryan Reynolds at his finest. Basically a more serious non costumed Deadpool. Cracking one liners but with a little more focus on taking out dictators obsessed with genocide. The story, actually written by the guys that wrote both Deadpools, is about a billionaire (a non famous, not in the limelight one…how is that even possible?) who gets fed up with dictator assholes one day as he is almost killed doing charity work, trying to bring food and supplies to poor parts of the country but then almost right after he arrives his location gets bombed and gassed to high hell. He gets so fed up, that he fakes his death, and then recruits other people with special skills (ex-CIA, parkour thieves, expert drivers), fakes their deaths too, so they can join his underground “ghost” team and help take down terrorists and dictators that the U.S. Government wouldn’t touch politically with a ten foot pole. This film tells of their mission to take down the dictator that bombed the site he was at while he was still “alive,” and put that dictator’s brother in charge of the country, who completely disproves of what his leader brother is doing, and actually wants their country to be like the U.S., a democracy.
6 Underground stands for 6 members of a team, which include Ryan Reynolds. The rest of the team is filled up by the great Melanie Laurent, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Ben Hardy, Adria Arjona, and a new recruit (gotta have that in the story for character introduction purposes), played by Corey Hawkins. They don’t know each others names, and only acknowledge each other by their number, 1 2 3 4 5 6. It is so that there are no attachments, nothing to make each other feel like a family. If you can’t make it to rendevoux point, you get left behind. The film switches from their current mission to little zany mini origins of all 6 members, which fills out the 2 hr 8 minute run time and keeps the pace flowing and the fun never stopping. Everybody gets several moments to shine, but the main focus is kept on Reynolds, followed by Corey Hawkins and then Melanie Laurent. Everybody is great here, but I felt like Adria Arjona got the short end of the stick. She’s good in this too, but I would’ve liked to see a little bit more character development from her as I feel like when the end credits hit I didn’t know much at all about her character like I did the others. She’s a good actress, memorable probably from Narcos and The Belko Experiment, so it puzzles me why she’s not featured in the film that heavily. I feel like there is probably a Michael Bay cut of a 3 hour movie here, and her moments were the ones that were left on the cutting room floor. Maybe they can bulk her up in an inevitable sequel.
The first 25 minutes of the film is one long awesome car chase, which should’ve had a giant watermark of “I’m Back” from Michael Bay in the background, because its is the best car chase I have seen in a long long long long long time. But that isn’t the only great special action set piece. There is one in the middle of the film involving a pool and one at the end involving a boat that involves magnets in one of the most visually stunning scenes I’ve ever seen come out of Bay’s filmography. You’ll know what I mean when you get to that part. The film is just plain fun, with the chemistry of the team being solid yet fancy free, and the quips and jokes from everyone, especially Reynolds, hitting their mark each and every single time. The only thing that will put some people off about this film is that the editing is extremely jarring. There is not one shot that lasts more than 5 seconds, and I’d say the average shot only lasts about two seconds. But if you are used to Michael Bay movies, you should already be used to it, as that shit hasn’t stopped since Armageddon. I have a feeling he films so much shit that his editor has to take a boat load of pain pills just to be able to control his headache while trying to put the movie together. The only thing true thing I can say about Michael Bay is this: the son of a bitch knows how to beautifully film an action sequence, no matter how jarring the editing and no matter how shitty the script is.
At least the jarring editing isn’t combined with a shaky cam. Bay also knows how to film static shots, even though they might be quick cut where every scene only lasts .5 seconds. I’d rather having static shots with jarring editing, than decent editing but with constant shaky cam. Anyway, 6 Underground is what Netflix is partly made for. Fun films like this. I really hope that Michael Bay and Netflix, after this film, maybe sign a numbered picture deal, because Bay could have unrestricted fun on this platform. You can tell with this movie, they just handed him the money, green lit the script and just said, “do whatever you want. go for it, we will not intervene.” When the movie was done they just released it, no questions asked. Because they know that Bay, when it doesn’t have to deal with fucking emotionless robots, can deliver a half way decent entertaining ride. This is one of those, no more, no less. Not one of the best films of the year, but one I would definitely watch again on Netflix with friends who haven’t seen it, or if I’m bored and can’t find anything else to watch that day. 6 Underground is Bayhem at its finest. If you’ve missed that Bayhem since his great action films from the mid to late 90s, and then Transformers ruined everything, then 6 Underground is Bay’s fun return to form.