Ryan Reynolds, Melanie Laurent, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Ben Hardy, Adria Arjona, Dave Franco, Corey Hawkins
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… one of Bay’s better efforts to date, and a reminder that he remains an audience pull for a reason.
Well, this is certainly an interesting team-up. On one side, you’ve got Michael Bay, the excess-driven blockbuster titan that audiences either love or love to hate. And on the other, you’ve got the writing team of Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, the pop culture savvy pair who gave Deadpool the big-screen treatment he deserves. They’ve even brought Ryan Reynolds along for the ride. And when these worlds collide, it makes for one of Bay’s better efforts to date, and a reminder that he remains an audience pull for a reason.
Everything one would associate with a Bay-directed film is here: Helicopters in the sunset, an ever-present sense of American patriotism, and of course, the aggressively hyperactive pacing. It’s the kind of sensory overload that can only be achieved through the combined efforts of three editors in the cutting room and a year’s supply of energy drinks. But unlike most of Bay’s previous examples, these trademarks end up fitting the mood of the scene more times than not. Whether it’s fear of getting shot, paranoia when things start going wrong, or just embracing the rush of freedom that the story is soaked in, it’s the first time in a very long while that Bay’s found a story that fits his style.
As for the writing, it slots into Reese and Wernick’s usual tact of both celebrating and ribbing the genre they find themselves in, whether it’s comic books, isolation-in-space thrillers or zom-com action flicks. And here, they’ve essentially made an unofficial Fast & Furious entry, with all the pretences of family and globe-trotting ridiculousness that implies. It even cuts the crap with the characters, designating them by number rather than name (yeah, they eventually get to the names, but don’t expect to remember them). While their pop culture reference game is relatively weaker here, their scripting gives a decent-enough throughline to keep the story on the rails in spite of the chaos.
Said story is the stuff of pure power fantasy, with a group of self-employed mercenaries who have faked their deaths so that they can violently improve the world while staying under the radar. It dabbles somewhat in political commentary, which hits a weird note when it shows a street revolution full of people wearing branded clothing (Because that worked out so well for Pepsi), but it’s hard not to get caught up in the populist exhilaration it generates. Between Bay’s visual style, Lorne Balfe’s pulsing compositions, and the slew of arena-shaking electro-alt-rock needle drops, it makes for a thrilling, smooth ride.
Now, with Bay being the memetic punching bag that he is, all of this could still serve as proof positive to completely avoid this, which itself is unavoidable. But with how reliably headache-inducing his work tends to be, 6 Underground being this entertaining is almost miraculous. It’s easily his best work since Pain & Gain, and in a year littered with cinematic disappointments, its place as a pleasant surprise only shines even brighter.