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Michael Bay is the best political tool the American war machine has. Forget ticker tape parades or Uncle Sam or ‘Mission Accomplished’ speeches, Bayhem is what funnels young men into death valley. But Bay uses a camera instead of a gun or knife. His seeming contempt for ordinary people, those without weapons or the capability to use them, is staggering. To say 6 Underground is his worst film would be wrong, why pick just one after all?
A nameless billionaire, known only as One (Ryan Reynolds), fakes his own death in order to fund and lead a squad of vigilante spec-ops. They include super spy Two (Mélanie Laurent), hitman Three (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo), parkour thief Four (Ben Hardy), doctor Five (Adria Arjona), driver Six (Dave Franco) and former Delta Force sniper Seven (Corey Hawkins).
Yes, there are seven in a movie called 6 Underground. Don’t worry. Bay whittles it back to six pretty quickly. Collectively known as the Ghosts, they come together to take down the dictator of Turgistan, Rovach Alimov (Lior Raz), and install his imprisoned brother Murat (Peyman Maadi) in his place.
6 Underground drops viewers right into the action with a car chase so confusing, so over-lit and so regardless of human life it may as well be the closest a film has ever gotten to Grand Theft Auto. Bay may as well cut his action with a rusty chainsaw for all the good professional editing software does him. It’s hard to tell whether the main characters are in one car or four throughout the chase. Product placement from the puke-green Ferrari to Reynolds’ watch through to Heineken beer or Lavazza coffee is common and so well-shot it beats out most of these products’ ads. That’s the trouble though, when Bay’s camera is still everything looks beautiful but like a kid on a sugar high he can’t sit still and has to zoom on to the next explosion.
6 Underground starts at rock bottom so there’s nowhere to go but up. There are three primary action scenes: a car chase through the streets of Florence, a skyscraper raid in Hong Kong and a magnetised yacht assault in Turgistan. The first is so poorly shot and cut it feels like a teenage boy’s impression of Bay which is not much worse than Bay himself in fairness. The second and third meanwhile feel legitimately competent and even good at times. Windows are blown out by a super-bass version of the THX theme in Hong Kong before Four gets to take off across rooftops and cranes like a spider-monkey. The magnetised yacht back-and-forth bonanza really has to be seen to be believed so credit where credit is due. This and all the accompanying gory kills would all mean so much more though if 6 Underground wasn’t so crass, vile, racist and misogynistic.
You could probably write a thesis titled “The Effect of Bayhem on Post-9/11 Cinema” or some such. I don’t know why you would though; watching so many of his movies in a row would probably have the same effect as a frontal lobe lobotomy. The politics of 6 Underground are as deplorable as Bush era propaganda with about as much regard for innocent life. The fact that talented writers like Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick (Deadpool) as well as a talented actor like Reynolds (also Deadpool) would associate their names with this is almost mind-boggling but then I think of the size of the cheque. In what world is a film about a billionaire funding international vigilantes acceptable politics? It’s easy to say that Michael Bay’s movies aren’t political but I’d argue they’re some of the most political films made in recent years. 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi ring a bell?
Plenty of people will ask: Who is this movie for? The answer should be obvious. Films can often be political tools for the police, for the military and even for corporations. 6 Underground will be pumped into the eyes and ears of hundreds of millions via Netflix. It is a recruitment video disguised as a semi-competent, haphazard action movie and we have one man to blame for it all. Michael Bay’s pro-war, pro-machismo, pro-American exceptionalism slant of action filmmaking has poisoned the well and it will be years before we can drink again.