The absurdist and self-aware action film has become a genre unto itself. The landmark franchise within the subgenre remains The Fast and the Furious, but these throwbacks to the 1980s classics continue to grow in popularity. Perhaps no director better embodies this better than Michael Bay. The director has often been a punchline to cinephiles, yet he continues to make massive hit after massive hit. While he’s languished in the Transformers franchise for the majority of the decade, his work has always found an audience. This weekend, he released his most interesting project since 2013, with 6 Underground dropping on Netflix. The resulting insanity creates the ultimate Michael Bay movie of his career. With more explosions and non-sensical plot points than any movie he’s ever made, 6 Underground is another fun action romp.
6 Underground follows Ryan Reynolds‘ Ghost Ops team as they murder their way through the bad guys of the world. Reynolds plays One, a former billionaire tech mogul that faked his death to form a libertarian death squad. Rather than worry about political alliances or diplomatic third rails, his team exterminates anyone they perceive as a monster. They work outside the law and answer to no one. Reynolds leads the group but has plenty of psychotic and funny specialists in tow. The group plans a coup in the fictional country Turgistan (a real province in Pakistan) after One observes human rights atrocities committed by its dictator.
Bay directs the team with ease and remains the star of 6 Underground. Advancing his frenetic style, his latest feature looks like 13 Hours or Pain & Gain. However, Bay blends his usual aesthetic with late Tony Scott and Go-Pro wielding parkour runners. The adrenaline comes across in every scene, making it one of his most visceral films in years. The director known for absurdist action brings that to life and 6 Underground works as his most exciting film since Bad Boys II. His libertarian side comes out in full view, and while the militaristic worship he’s employed over the past decade remains problematic. Despite these problems, 6 Underground‘s technical merits make this a must-watch for action junkies.
Reynolds bets big on himself as a franchise star, and it pays off. The success of the film weighs on his turn and Bay’s direction. Reynolds gets to play in the movie star sandbox here, coasting on his charisma and comedic timing. It’s not a bad performance by Reynolds by any means, but he can perform this role in his sleep. Still, there are not many actors that could spew his non-sensical monologues (let alone a half-dozen).
The actual team features a combination of foreign all-stars and young up-and-comers to fill out the team. Mélanie Laurent gets a showcase character. She’s both a badass and simultaneously nonsensical. Why Laurent jumped into this role is beyond me. The Inglourious Basterds actress has paved a career as an arthouse performer and director, but her “one for them” will give her the flexibility to really get her passion projects off the ground. Corey Hawkins continues his upward trajectory, and he gets the opportunity to show off his movie star persona here. Hawkins can disappear into a role when asked, but he’s starting to earn credit as a good performer for tentpole fare.
The issues with most Bay films are present as well. He lets the camera objectify his characters, especially the women. Guns and kills are fetishized throughout. 6 Underground reaches new levels of gore for Bay. His movies rarely feature blood, and this one pours it on by the bucketload. Bodies and corpses litter the street, and each setpiece offers its own level of destruction porn. None of this should surprise you if you’ve ever seen a Bay film, but to be clear these issues remain problematic and lower his potential as a filmmaker.