MPAA Rating: R | Rating: ☆
Release year: 2019
Genre: Action Director: Michael Bay
Biblical scholar Walter Brueggemann once described the “script” of American society as “therapeutic, technological, consumerist militarism.” It’s a narrative of escapist feel-goodism, driven by technological advancement as inherently progressive, consumerism as telos, and military might as virtuous. Add “misogynistic,” “nihilistic,” and “incoherent” to that list, and you will have adequately described Netflix release 6 Underground, Michael Bay’s magnum opus. The humor is crass and puerile, the violence is gratuitous and gruesome, and the product placement is unmissable (as brought to you by Red Bull). Yet—and I could be wrong here—I didn’t observe a single low-angle slow-motion 360 shot, a Bayhem signature. Apparently shit just did not get real enough.
Ryan Reynolds stars as One, a tech billionaire who decides to take world matters into his own hands and stage a military coup in a Middle Eastern country to oust a vicious dictator using chemical warfare on his own people. In this premise, 6 Underground manages to simultaneously condone America’s worst foreign policy practices and semi-fascist capitalist one-man billionaire monopolies. Reynolds’ One is like a combination of his snarky Deadpool character and Jesse Eisenberg’s Mark Zuckerberg from The Social Network. In other words, he’s an insufferable asshole, quick with a sarcastic profanity-laden quip but entirely lacking in charm, compassion, or moral coherence. He finds a group of five other highly-skilled folks, though what their true skills are or how he finds them aren’t really clear or explained, despite the various lengthy origin story sequences which make up at least a third of the film. These characters are deemed “ghosts,” which is apt, because they’re all lifeless and empty. None of the characters really mean anything; they’re like avatars in a video game, empty vessels equipped with enough random abilities and ethnic diversity to justify various action scenes. (Should we have a parkour scene? Then we should have a “Parkour Dude.”) Indeed, the entire film’s aesthetic borrows heavily from action video games, from first-person shooter camera angles, to all the explosions for the sake of explosions, to women relegated to eye-candy. It’d perhaps be exciting or fun if it weren’t so banal and dragged out. The editing is incoherent, as are any of the team’s plans or ideas—stuff just sorta happens, and we’re expected to sit back and enjoy it. But for all its attempts at humor—and there are many such attempts—6 Underground is ultimately joyless.
By 6 Underground‘s conclusion, so many innocent people have needlessly died that the squad’s ostensible justice mission is entirely undermined and useless—if you have to kill 1,000 innocent people to supposedly save 500 (as long as the violent military coup works out for the best), then what was the point? Indeed, there is no point to any of this human existence; Reynold’s One essentially says and does as much, that in being “dead” they can now experience true freedom beyond the vapidity of normal life (meaning, how you and I go on living). Even their supposedly good actions are meaningless in the big scheme of human history and the universe’s vastness; nothing lasts, nothing will be remembered. Now, if 6 Underground‘s humor was smart enough to be satirical, undermining previous Bay-esque action films celebrating the militaristic-consumerist script decried above by Brueggemann, then perhaps it’d be worth our consideration, a subversion of its own ideology as well as a work of pure entertainment. But the word “smart” cannot be applied to 6 Underground, apart from perhaps “my brain and being smarts from having experienced this awful film.” By being exceedingly stupid, morally depraved, and dreadfully dull, 6 Underground pulls off a hat-trick of Very Bad Filmmaking.
IMDB Listing: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt8106534/