Michael. Bay. Two words that elicit an almost visceral reaction among moviegoers. Critics, by and large, can’t fathom the fell, but he does fare better, by and large, with average Joes and Janes. (A quick flip through his oeuvre on Rotten Tomatoes reveals a general gulf of around 30 or 40 percentage points between Tomatometer and Audience Score.) And then there’s a specific segment of the population that eat his stuff up like a heaping bowl of Froot Loops—we know it’s bad for us and quite probably rotting our insides, but dammit, it sure is fun.
Bay’s latest (and the first installment in what Netflix hopes will grow into a franchise) is 6 Underground, a big-bang-boom epic that plays like a super-stylized mash-up of Mission: Impossible and a Victoria’s Secret catalog. Would you expect anything different?
Ryan Reynolds leads the way as the uber-rich leader of a, well, underground cadre hell-bent on righting the worlds wrongs. He calls himself One—anonymity is key, he tells us early on, ensuring the job comes first, unencumbered by emotions. His hand-picked gang includes ex-CIA agent Two (Mélanie Laurent), hitman Three (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo), parkour expert Four (Ben Hardy), doctor Five (Adria Arjona), and Dave Franco rounds out the club as Six, the driver. Corey Hawkins later joins the group as Seven, but we’re getting ahead of ourselves.
If there’s any doubt who’s behind the lens, the first twenty minutes (well, really, the first two minutes) makes it clear as day. A high-octane, ultra-destructive car chase through the streets of Florence sets the stage for the Bay-gasms to come, with a body count in the dozens, damage in the millions, a severed eyeball, and even a couple John Woo-esque pigeons fluttering amongst the carnage. Either roll your eyes and get out now, or pump your fists and settle in.
One announces that the team’s mission is to dispose of the heartless dictator of Turgistan (which could be in the Middle East, Central Asia, or Southeast Europe—who knows?) and install his democratic brother in his place. Obviously, the bad guy surrounds himself with generals, assassins, and special forces, making the team’s mission seem impossible, sure, but if it weren’t, what fun would that be?
The script, by Deadpool scribes Paul Wernick and Rhett Reese, is a—well, who cares? I’m relatively sure there is some dialogue sprinkled in and among the explosions and gratuitous shots of lingerie-clad beautiful people, but none is coming to mind. What we do get is a handful of deliciously over-the-top action sequences in Italy, Las Vegas, and Hong Kong, a non-stop barrage of super-crisp, ultra-saturated shots of our heroes being heroic, and Ryan Reynolds, who has clearly taken a healthy swig of the Michael Bay Kool-Aid (spiked with his own Aviation Gin, which, natch, is featured prominently).
Throw it all together, and the flick still has room for some impressive surprises. Bay may be the most clichéd cliché in Hollywood, but the man knows what he likes, and he does it really, really well. Not your thing? Options abound. But if you’re a Bay-natic, 6 Underground is right up your alley—and what a gloriously frenetic and gonzo alley it is.