Imagine a world where billionaires decided who ran countries. Where Elon Musk could pay for a death squad to kill Bashar al-Assad and install whoever he wanted in his place. Where Mark Zuckerberg could send mercenaries to murder Kim Jong-Un, then decided personally who was going to become the new North Korean leader.
6 Underground takes this dystopian nightmare that Ayn Rand would think was a bit extreme, as its launchpad. Ryan Reynolds stars as ‘One’, a billionaire who, after faking his death in a Red Bull ™ sponsored plane crash, decides to lead and pay for a vigilante gang that operates as an ‘extreme’ version of the A-Team. Each member of the team also has their own fake death and funeral, allowing them to operate outside the system, which Reynolds explains in excruciating voice over multiple times. You can tell that the team is extreme because one of them (Ben Hardy) does parkour. Michael Bay is hitting the hottest trends of 2004 while they’re new and fresh.
We’re introduced to the team mid-car chase in a lime-green sportscar through the streets of “Florence, Italy” (just in case the audience confused it with the one in South Carolina). They speed through the cobbled streets, killing a pedestrian in slow motion for a joke. The lovable cockney parkour guy is on rooftops for some reason, while the rest of the team is in a shouting match with each other in a way that’s filmed like an old Mountain Dew commercial. It’s flashy and incoherent, with the audience having no clear idea of what it is going on.
Do you know that cliché of a car smashing through market stalls? Well, this car smashes through a FIREWORKS stall, setting off a lot of them, because that’s how rockets work — and also because Michael Bay loves firework explosions. Noise and explosions happen for about ten minutes then the film moves on to the main plot.
That’s Not How This Works
Once 6 Underground actually starts, we’re introduced to the nation of “Turgistan” (I suspect they went with that name because ‘F***headistan’ was already taken by London Has Fallen). Turgistan is ruled by
Bashar al Assad Rovach Alimov (Lior Raz), a generic evil foreigner who uses chemical weapons on his own people. He conveniently has a nice brother under lock and key, so Reynolds’ One decides to bring the team together to kill the president and replace him with his “democracy-loving” brother to restore peace to the region. I don’t know what the writers think democracy means, but it isn’t that.
Even the Fast and Furious movies include scenes of the characters working out how to get weapons and equipment into foreign countries. These guys just fly into a tyrannical regime’s homeland with a private jet full of machine guns without a second thought. When your movie is far more stupid than Fast and Furious, you have a problem.
That’s Not How Any Of This Works
There’s a substantial amount of speechifying around the idea that as “ghosts” the team can do what government agencies can’t. What isn’t explained is how Ryan Reynolds is both dead and anonymous while also still having access to all of his money. If you’re a billionaire, people will know what you look like. If you’re a billionaire that looks like Ryan Reynolds, lots of people will know what you look like.
The main problem with the movie isn’t that it’s dumb. Dumb is fine in an action context (not ideal, but fine). What is deeply, deeply worrying is the worldview of the writers and Bay. The script repeatedly states that if you want anything done, you can’t use governments, you have to be unanswerable and free. Except…what are the protagonists doing in this movie? They’re killing dozens of people they don’t know and taking control of the lives of millions without asking.
Do you know who wants to be anonymous and take out anyone they disagree with? Serial killers. Only sociopaths are so utterly convinced that they are the good guys that normal rules shouldn’t apply to them. James Bond is unquestionably a sociopath, but Bond films at least pay lip service to pointing that out. 6 Underground thinks that a rich white guy murdering his way to installing a Middle Eastern president is desirable. Bay has always been jingoistic, but this is the cinematic equivalent of a MAGA hat.
A Collection Of Isms
To say this film isn’t progressive would be a massive understatement. From the beginning, the population of Turgistan is depicted as either victims needing America to save them or murderers. And in typical Michael Bay fashion, during one raid, the two women on the team are dressed in skintight dresses and high heels. Is this so they can sneak in unnoticed? Seeing as they are also wearing gas masks and carrying machine guns, I’d say no. Oh, and Adria Arjona’s character’s gas mask is pink.
Remember when Megan Fox had to contort herself ridiculously over an engine in Transformers? Mélanie Laurent has to suffer the same indignity, as she’s displayed in lingerie in an unnatural position for no other reason than to appease Bay’s leering gaze. It’s gross and unsettling.
The 6 kill of loads of innocent bystanders without acknowledgment. Occasionally, like the pedestrian in the opening scene, in slow motion with pop music laid over. I don’t know who the target audience for that is, but I don’t want to live near them.
It Gets Worse
Even the mindless action is directed really badly. The Rock was a really good action movie. Since then, Bay has gotten more frenetic and slapdash with every release. And The Rock is 23 years old. It’s been a long decline. In an era where Chad Stahleski, Justin Lin, and the Russo Brothers are directing, Bay’s inability to keep action coherent is glaring and insufferable.
I cannot recommend 6 Underground on any level. It’s a racist, misogynistic throwback that somehow manages to make explosions boring. It’s comfortably the worst thing any of the cast have been involved in and deserves to be quickly forgotten.
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