There is a moment in the opening car chase sequence of Michael Bay’s newest feature 6 Underground where a green Alfa Romero Giulia Quadrifoglio crashes through the legendary Galleria dell’Accademia and destroys practically everything within it. No sculpture, painting, or wall is left intact, save the statue of David, which is thankfully spared (though criticism of his manhood is, naturally, assessed).
One could easily find a metaphor for Michael Bay’s visual assault on the “art” of cinema here but I want to avoid such gatekeeping because, frankly, Michael Bay is a true artist of cinema: the cinema of adrenaline and the cinema of the boom-boom. 6 Underground, his newest feature for Netflix, may be his most ambitious entry yet in his oft-watched, oft-criticized oeuvre. While certainly lacking in subtlety, and sometimes lacking in taste, Michael Bay is never one not to entertain. And that is, in essence, the beauty of cinema: entertainment.
Number One (Ryan Reynolds) is a billionaire tech genius, with a wisecrack ever-ready, who faked his own death to achieve true “freedom”. Freedom for him is the ability to act like a ghost, utilizing his limitless stores of cash to fund vigilante missions against the world’s worst criminals. Recruiting the best and the (mostly) brightest, One insists on anonymity and no connection to the outside world.
Already on his team is the beautiful but cold Number Two (Mélanie Laurent), a former CIA spook who can handle her guns as well as unfortunate bullet wounds to her torso like a pro. Joining her is the movie-quoting bruiser Number Three (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo), parkour specialist Number Four (Ben Hardy), former doctor Number Five (Adria Arjona), and expert driver Number Six (Dave Franco).
The team’s first mission is an unmitigated disaster, leading to Six’s death. However, the information they needed, info on four generals connected to a brutal Turgistanian dictator (Lior Raz), is received successfully. One hires damaged sniper Seven (Corey Hawkins) to fill in for Six and the newly formed team begins a coup of Turgistan with lots of poor intel, fatal mishaps, and mini-missions that take them from Florence to the US to Hong Kong and the Middle East.
If you thought you weren’t reading the “wise-cracking tech genius” description right about Number One, you were. Number One is essentially Iron Man with Deadpool’s vulgarity. And the movie doesn’t apologize for that connection. Ryan Reynolds certainly doesn’t. There is virtually no difference between his depiction of Wade Wilson and Number One here: gruesome sight gag, clever retort, violent action, rinse and repeat.
But all the other aspects of a Michael Bay movie won’t apologize either. These films, when allowed an R rating, give absolutely zero fucks as to how comfortable your eyeballs are or how the laws of physics apply to vehicles in constant motion. The greatest thing about a Michael Bay film is that any environment can be the setting for action and virtually anything in said setting can be a weapon.
6 Underground has some of the most inventive inanimate stokers of chaos in cinema history. Pleasure boats, construction cranes, negative edge pools, forklifts, magnets, kabob sticks…just about anything else you can think of too. To make this endless chaos more exciting, Bay doesn’t hold back on the gore, killing enemies in such outlandish ways that you can’t help but laugh.
The cast is thankfully not heavy on star power and, as a result, the chemistry between the leads feels fresh and comes across very fluidly. The biggest standout is Laurent, who oozes sexiness while purring in her French accent. If you squint, you might think you’re watching an over-sexed Kristin Wiig. Hardy sells the physicality of his role and Garcia-Rulfo gets all the best lines, coming across as a surly bear you want to hug. The rest do the best they can with what they’re given.
Since Reynolds, the biggest star in the group by a lot, stands out amongst the lesser-known names, he fits in as the charismatic, and funny, leader. One of the many joys of 6 Underground is witnessing how inherently funny the cast is together. Some Michael Bay films force the humor to ludicrous degrees (I’m looking at you Bad Boys II) but the humor on display in 6 Underground is organic and genuinely funny.
But cast chemistry is usually just the icing on a Michael Bay cake. We go to see Bay films for the action and on that front, Bay delivers. But, more importantly, he delivers it in constantly changing ways. The film opens with a 20-minute car chase through Florence but after that, there is hardly any time to breathe as, in both present time and in flashbacks, we visit the United States, Ukraine, Afghanistan, United Arab-Emirates, China, and wherever the hell Turgistan is (apparently it was real at one point, and is now in Pakistan). I’m probably forgetting other places along the way.
So Bay has brought his boom boom to the world. And we are all better for it. As much as Bay represents Americana in his works, it is nice to see the US take a backseat to so many different locations. With a compelling cast, a fun story, amazing action, incredible locations, and a solid sense of humor, 6 Underground might be one of the best films Michael Bay has ever made. Boom (boom)!
6 Underground is available to stream on Netflix starting December 13th.