6 Underground - Review : DJ MACK

Directed by: Michael Bay. Written by: Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick. Starring: Ryan Reynolds (One), Mélanie Laurent (Two), Manuel Garcia-Rulfo (Three), Ben Hardy (Four), Adria Arjona (Five), Dave Franco (Six), Corey Hawkins (Seven), Lior Raz (Rovach Alimov), Payman Maadi (Murat Alimov), Yuri Kolokolnikov (Baasha Zia), Kim Kold (Daqeeq).
Michael Bay is a talented director. Even at his absolute worst – and he has made films I have called the worst of their respective years – he usually has a moment or two that makes your jaw drop. He can do things that few other directors can do – and even if he is one of the main reasons why we have shaky camera, rapid fire editing dominating so many action movies now (and I hate that) – he manages to do it better than most, at least most of the time. And I can always tell a Bay film from one of his imitators. This may be controversial – but I do consider him to be an auteur, although I should point out I have never really viewed that term as a qualitative term – there are people who are undeniably auteurs, who I downright loath. Bay is not one of them. I really do go into each one of his films hoping I will see something as good as The Rock, as bonkers as Bad Boys II, or just as out and out entertaining as Pain & Gain. Most of the time, I am left disappointed. And with 6 Underground, I was very, very disappointed.
I can bet that writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick and Bay pitched the film as Fast & Furious meets Mission Impossible – because that is clearly what they’re going for here. The film stars Ryan Reynolds as One – a mysterious tech billionaire, who has faked his death, and started a covert team dedicated to making the world a better place by blowing shit up, and killing a lot of people. Two is Melanie Laurent, a badass, former CIA Agent, Three is Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, a wise-cracking hitman, Four is Ben Hardy, who is a parkour expert, Five is Adria Arjona, who I believe is a doctor, but doesn’t do much. Six is Dave Franco, the getaway driver, and Seven is Corey Hawkins, a sniper with PTSD – and yes, there is a reason why the movie is called 6 Underground, and not 7 Underground. Their mission, which they choose to except, is to overthrown the brutal dictator of the fictional Middle Eastern country of Turgistan, and install his democracy loving brother in his place. Bay’s approach to Middle Eastern politics is about as blunt as hammer to the face. If you are like me, you will likely be unsettled – even offended – at scenes of the dictator gassing his own people, shot in the style of every other Michael Bay action sequence in the film. There are more of course, but Bay has essentially made an action film about Syria – and that just leaves a bad taste in my mouth. It would be more offensive if he, or anyone involved, seemed to take it at all seriously. But he doesn’t – it’s just another excuse to kill a lot of people.
And that is what happens in the film. Reynolds wisecracks his way through his lead role – probably induced by the same writers as Deadpool to take the roll, but here it all rings so hollow, so false. Really, out of all the seven people on the crew, only the great Melanie Laurent comes out unscathed – I wouldn’t say she is brilliant, but she at least seems to be playing a character, and understands who she is. The rest of them just feel like pawns for Bay to move around and shoot people before things go boom. Because that is, after all, why Bay made this film. From its 20-minute opening car chase, to the climax is which I would say dozens, if not hundreds, are killed Bay doesn’t take his foot off the gas pedal for a second. It’s one, loud, thudding, incoherent action sequence after another for more than two hours. Even when the screenplay slows down for a minute – to give everyone a chance to breath – Bay doesn’t as he shoots dialogue scenes with the same incoherent flash as everything else. This sort of unrelenting approach can work – just look at the brilliant Uncut Gems in theaters now, which pulls this off brilliantly – but it’s got to be anchored in something, you have to care about something, or be involved in the film in some way. That’s impossible here. It’s all just one loud bang after another, after another. I really, truly do hope that Michael Bay makes another great film at some point. I also really, truly do hope that the franchise this movie is clearly meant to start never happens.

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