Saturday 14 December 2019

Film Review: 6 Underground

Strap in for utter Bayhem in Michael Bay and Ryan Reynolds' globe-trotting action thriller, 6 Underground.

Streaming behemoth Netflix is in the business of handing out blank cheques at the moment, and who better to benefit from a tidy $150 million budget and free reign to wreck havoc than everyone's favourite pyromaniac, patriot and filmmaker, Michael Bay.

Best known for a suite of increasingly large Transformers films, Bay's best work has often come outside this franchise, with films like Pain and Gain, Armageddon and Bad Boys II. You can now add the bombastic 6 Underground to that list, as this frenetic spy shoot 'em up is a hoot from start to finish, even if the actual plot stringing it together makes about as much sense as a moose in the Sahara Desert.

The set-up is simple; Ryan Reynolds plays a dashing and daring former tech mogul billionaire who funnels his funds into a elite squad of vigilantes, who operate outside the law and dish out explosive justice on whomever they choose.

The trick is that every member of the squad – ranging from a slinky former CIA operative (Melanie Laurent) to a wisecracking wheelman (Dave Franco) – has faked their own death, allowing them the freedom to go anywhere and do anything – like a 'ghost'. As Reynolds' character surmises in an early briefing scene, "our job as ghosts is to do the dirty work the living can't or won't".

If you find yourself struggling to make head or tail of the plot around the halfway mark, rest assured, you're not alone. 6 Underground opens with a wild 20-minute long car chase through the winding streets of Florence; tyres screech, bullets fly, cars flip over one another and into innocent market stalls. Pugs flee from Franco's lurid green Alfa Romeo in slow motion while Adria Arjona's character attempts some makeshift surgery in the back seat. It might be the most bonkers set piece Bay has done to date, and it's damn effective too – not only are you hooked from the off, but the characters and their schtick are neatly introduced amidst the action.

From here, the film hops around from Ukraine and Uzbekistan to Las Vegas, Paris and Hong Kong. There is some semblance of a plot, but it ultimately isn't important. What it boils down to is this – the ghosts are gunning for the dictator of a vaguely Eurasian fictional dictatorship called Turgistan (which sounds a lot like Turkimenistan and looks a lot like Abu Dhabi).

But Bay knows you came here for Bayhem, so you're going to get Bayhem. Flocks of helicopters, scantily-clad women, sun-drenched low-angle shots, saturated colours, explosions that erupt and sprout fireworks and smoke, close-ups on vulgar supercars and their exotic badges  – it's all here.

Free from the confines of Transformers, Bay doesn't hold back on the blood and guts, with Reynolds' crack squad serving up headshots like a free-for-all deathmatch on Nuketown. There's also witty banter and crude humour for days, from Reynolds' trademark foul mouth to the sexy back and forth between Laurent and Manuel Garcia-Rulfo's hitman.

At just a smidge over two hours, this is film is a fun ride that is thrilling in the moment but doesn't linger long in the memory. It's Michael Bay doing what Michael Bay does best, which is blowing things to smithereens and being politically incorrect while he's at it. An effervescent cast – I haven't really mentioned Corey Hawkins and Ben Hardy, but they're both great – and a loud soundtrack – featuring Muse, Armin van Buuren and Awolnation – keep the energy high throughout.

The Verdict: 7/10

Pure, uncut Bayhem. 6 Underground is a riotous rollercoaster that brushes aside some questionable politics with heaps of superb choreography, pyrotechnics and stuntwork.

6 Underground is streaming on Netflix now.

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