6 Underground is cartoonishly raucous explosion porn from mayhem maestro Michael Bay that feels like a film that was made over a decade ago and was just somehow recently unearthed by Netflix. It’s a testament to star Ryan Reynolds and his seemingly effortless charisma because without him the movie would have been a snow-blind mess.Overstuffed with countless car crashes and numerous “booms” and “louds,” 6 Underground owes pretty much any watchable aspects to Reynolds and his charm. And even with Reynolds, the film is overlong, easily trespassing into tedium at the halfway point.
The premise, in itself, feels very Avengers-esque, in the sense that it centers on a rogue team of specialized operatives who will happily cross borders and waters to right egregious wrongs. But 6 Underground is an argument both for and against the Sokovia Accords, as Reynolds plays a Tony Stark-level billionaire genius who’s decided to fake his death, become a ghost, and pull off grand vigilante-style heists and hits with operatives he’s recruited (and ghosted) in order to punish powerful evildoers (in this case, the dictator of Turgistan).
Reynolds’ “One” doesn’t want to be hamstrung by diplomacy, bureaucracy, or corruption but, at the same time, a lot of innocent people — from pedestrians to cops — die during his A-Team-style escapades and he just shrugs it off.
In a very Losers-type of team-up, 6 Underground affords itself this type of collateral damage by having its heroes be former “bad guys” (or in the very least, ethically compromised characters) who are looking for redemption. Everything changes, however, when new recruit and former soldier, “Seven” (Corey Hawkins) replaces a lost teammate and introduces some actual integrity into the mix. The closest 6 Underground manages to an engaging narrative in between its frenetic set pieces (which all feel like massive montages, because Bay) is Reynolds’ “One” growing his Grinch heart three sizes and learning to care about his no-name cohorts.
Rounding out the rest of the dead-to-the-world squad is Inglourious Basterds’s Mélanie Laurent, The Magnificent Seven’s Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Good Omens’ Adria Arjona, and EastEnders’ Ben Hardy. Laurent and Garcia-Rulfo’s characters resonate the most after Hawkins’, with Arjona and Hardy pulling up the rear with bare-bones personas (and Hardy’s “Four” as the team’s parkour/free runner – which also made this movie feel excessively Aughts). Of course, the true stars in any Bay production are the spinning camera shots, fast cuts, and the carnage caused in the streets of famous old cities. Without these moments, as well as the overwrought use of motivational power rock by The Score and Bishop Briggs (and even AWOLNATION and Muse, if we’re talking more Aughts-adjacent acts), is it even a Bay joint?
6 Underground Gallery
For all the money thrown at this thing, nothing really beats the opening action sequence — a crazed car chase through Florence, Italy (filled with nuns, mimes, people drinking espresso, etc) — as far as crass calamity and devastating destruction. Locations and tactics change later on, based on the missions, but this starting scene is so over-the-top (who are these bad guys who will also drive through churches and museums?!) that everything after it feels like a dry retread.
6 Underground can certainly be enjoyed on very basic levels — if you’re looking for a dumb Michael Bay action movie loaded with overlong car chases and big explosions, that’s exactly what you get. But without Reynolds in it, with his ability to make even rudimentary quips seem hilarious, there’s nothing here worth really saving or savoring. It’s exhausting enough with him in it, much less with a lead lacking his mirthful magnetism.
Also, Peter Stormare was reported to be in this movie. He’s not. I’m not sure if everyone was misinformed or if his scenes got cut (he’s not in the closing credits). I’ll say this much though: This movie feels like it should have Peter Stormare in it. I’m a little mad it doesn’t.