6 Underground movie review: Ryan Reynolds-starrer offers twist on heist capers, but is ultimately formulaic
The premise of Michael Bay's 6 Underground is a thin excuse for Ryan Reynolds and his good-looking, charismatic castmates to engage in hijinks of the kind that would make Ethan Hunt, James Bond and Danny Ocean drool.
castRyan Reynolds, Melanie Laurent, Manuel Garcia-rulfo, Ben Hardy, Adria Arjona, Dave Franco And Corey Hawkins
In the very last scene of the new Michael Bay film, 6 Underground, on Netflix, a member of the protagonist One's crack team tells him that their next mission should be a casino heist.
It's a self-aware nod at what sets this Ryan Reynolds-starrer apart from other movies of the same genre: when his character (the aforementioned One) brings people with different skill sets together to form an elite squad, it is not to pull off some near-impossible operation for personal gain. Rather, it is to mete out a slick form of vigilante justice. Target 1: the evil dictator of Turgistan, who has a penchant for launching nerve gas attacks on the hapless citizens of his domain.
In flashbacks, we see how One's troupe came to be. One was a billionaire whose photo-op altruism takes a turn for the meaningful when he is caught in the thick of the dictator's crackdown on a refugee camp. One realises that his billions aren't enough to effect true change in the world, so he decides to cut himself free of all rules by becoming a 'ghost'. He fakes his own death and enters a shadow world where there are no traces of his past life or identity, starting on his world-changing plans in earnest.
He brings on board other ghosts: Two (a former CIA spy), Three (a hitman), Four (a thief with a penchant for gravity-defying stunts), Five (a doctor), Six (a stellar driver who'd give Baby a complex), and Seven (an ex-Army sniper). One actual fatality later, they're the "6 Underground" of the title.
The premise – bringing down the dictator – is a thin excuse for Reynolds and his good-looking, charismatic castmates to engage in hijinks and mayhem of the kind that would make Ethan Hunt, James Bond and Danny Ocean drool with envy.
And drool they would. The very start of the film sees a car chase that twists and turns through the streets (and monuments) of Florence as One and the others make a desperate getaway, having tortured some vital information out of the dictator's lawyer. It sets the tone for what is to come: the most gorgeous cityscapes – be it in Italy or Hong Kong – serving as the backdrop for high-octane action sequences with spiralling body counts. In other words, staple Michael Bay fare.
Apart from its central conceit, everything else about 6 Underground plays true to type. From the rules One sets for his team (among whom Melanie Laurent, Ben Hardy, Corey Hawkins and Dave Franco particularly stand out), to their individual quirks and equations, to their ultimate bonding and how their escapades will play out, there's nothing that surprises. Even the hiccups in their mission are expected.
There's a passing reference to the less than salutary role the US has played in propping up downright nefarious regimes to serve its own interests. But the coup that One and gang are working towards, as a solution to the evil dictator's excesses, seems simplistic and naive to say the least. The fictional country all this is in aid of is so generic that you'd be hard pressed to find a better description of it than a comment by Four: "It's one of those ...stans". A nuanced perspective on geopolitics is not what 6 Underground is offering of course, but a little less flippancy would have gone a long way with the story.
At just eight minutes over two hours, 6 Underground isn't anything short of a frenetic ride, so there's too little time or breathing space to think about the information it chooses *not* to provide you. What's harder to ignore is that the irreverent tone adopted by One doesn't *always* fit seamlessly into the high risk situations in which he and his comrades often find themselves.
For its flawless stunt choreography, breathtaking visuals, superb production values, and genuine sense of fun, 6 Underground is definitely worth a watch. Just don't go digging for anything below its glossy, gorgeous surface.
Rating: A bonus half star to the official rating of **1/2 for the action sequences
Watch the trailer here:
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