While most of us are content to shut out the tragedies of the world by shutting off the TV, there are others who refuse to block out cruelty and suffering and are determined to do something about it instead. Bankrolled by a billionaire philanthropist who faked his own death in order to form a vigilante team freed by ‘death’ to do what needs to be done, they’re known only by their numbers. Which is appropriate because this is Michael Bay action filmmaking by the numbers. Literally.
Loud, frenetic, pyrotechnically indulgent and littered with ugly product placement, “6 Underground” wants to be fun, for sure, but it really wants to be fast and furious but overshoots badly, ending up rushed and angry instead.
There’s no denying it puts its pedal to the metal from the very beginning with a frenzied and chaotic opening sequence through Florence that goes on for far too long and is far too relentlessly destructive to feel like a beginning. This level of mayhem would be a little over the top for any other movie’s finale, let alone its rambling opening forty-minute prologue to the story proper. While there are impressive stunts aplenty, the blasé level of collateral damage and civilian casualties are so high and so gleefully cavalier it makes Zack Snyder’s oft-criticised “Man Of Steel” look like the epitome of restraint and sensitivity.
Netflix may be carving out a distinctive and welcome reputation for offering auteur directors a place to work without needing to compromise their vision in the slightest but “6 Underground” ably illustrates this isn’t always going to be a good thing. It’s Bay, red in tooth and claw and orange in filter, unrestrained by the need for narrative cohesion or even structural integrity. He’s certainly found some stunning places to shoot the film but it’s a pity he lacks the patience to let you see them for very long. It seems to have been edited by Edward Scissorhands and everything being cut too quickly and frequently, the end result ends up feeling every minute of its bloated 2 hour 7 minute run time – and then some.
The story, a nonsensical imperialist regime change fable whose geopolitical perspective view seems firmly rooted in Dick Cheney’s early 21st century geopolicitcal worldview feels spectacularly tone deaf – even for Bay – and it compounds its hawkish jingoism by egregiously positioning revenge as justice to sate its simplistic appetites.
The cast seems content to do what’s required of them, maintaining the bombastic bonhomie with the minimum viable level of commitment and star Ryan Reynolds seems content to serve up a lukewarm reprise of his wisecracking action likability schtick but his Viagra-like powers to lift similar films seems to have deserted him here.
A tedious, unrelenting flash-bang approach to movie-making, this is an unwelcome throwback to a former era and while it has moments when it manages to make the most of its cast and locations and the money which has been sprayed across the screen like a profligate Jackson Pollock its mostly a grindingly dull series of action movie clichés, unrealistic looking explosions and flaccid machismo masquerading as fresh new would-be franchise.