6 Underground: review
Director; Michael Bay Running time: 128mins Release Date: Dec 13th 2019
So, this film is said to be about a tech billionaire ( NOT Iron Man) played by Ryan Reynolds (NOT Deadpool) and is named after the nineties hit (NOT Sneaker Pimps). It has an uphill battle to face in the copycat accusation stakes. It may have to work harder than most.
The fact it starts with a voice-over with an expletive-filled description is really brave considering. Maybe. Is there going to be an Asian Taxi-driver as well.....Let's get original.
The obvious tag here is that it is Michael Bay. Everyone knows what that means, In the first instance you are not disappointed. The obligatorily dramatic opening is signature. It goes on for just shy of twenty minutes. It is peppered with non-linear character and situation exposition, some of which may even be less-than clumsy. If you like action scenes especially, you will love this.
There is a cavalcade of visual and auditory treats. spurting blood, sexy-looking stars, quippy dialogue and explosions. A slight nod to Frank Miller and Sin City If (like yours truly) you appreciate the skill and enjoy a bit of dynamic action but could do with it being minimal, then you will get sick of it after the first ten to fifteen. The explosions may lose the impact, particularly when the front of a chasing vehicle (i.e, the part of a vehicle with no fuel tank) hits a row of parked bicycles and somehow explodes. Plus, one of my favourite movie-myth tropes of all time; the pulling-out-the-bullet-to-save-a-gunshot-wound-victim-from-dying. A real high-attender. As well as a checklist of cliches; bird-poo on the car window a bit empty-screen, turning on the radio to hear an incongruous song of a cheesy-pop variety, wash-rinse-repel, ad-infinitum All the while we are watching Ryan Reynolds, just to see if he starts singing "Shoop".
After this adrenaline-filled entrance, we find a quite unexpected, yet unsurprising conclusion. A brave use of a big-name. Michael Bay is not quite as predictable as we thought? We will see. I will not grant him a Palm d'Or yet. After all, it has the most heavy-handed product-placement since Twilight. That said, It has the feel of the remake of The Italian Job (maybe due to the setting) but much better. The virtuoso-editing and spiral camerawork, cutting to shaky-cam as required, makes it possible to be fed-up of the drawn-out action scene, but also intrigued by it. Thanks to this will in no doubt, go to the editing team led by William Goldenberg, who worked on Zero Dark Thirty and gives a similar led-from-the-front perspective of storytelling camerawork that is necessary for a movie that is so visually rich. This is a definite strong point.
Bravely for a good-guys versus bad-guys, there are civilian casualties. This refreshingly does not help us have immediate sympathy for Dave Franco (no.6: Driver) or the other members of the gang, who have no names but are known by a number a-la-SPECTRE, and the main role they serve, Doctor, Hitman, etc. There is a Parkour-runner, who is played by Ben Hardy, sporting a cockney accent that sounds so fake, it is only the fact he was Peter Beale in Eastenders for many years, that saves it and confuses the issue. Seriously, think Johnny Depp in 'From Hell' He is a Hampshire boy, and in no way a born cockney, so maybe he tried to ramp it up a bit much. He gives it the old Young Ones bouncer style " Apples and Pears tit-for-tat I love London Taaaahhhhn and I was at Violet's funeral!" Which of course, was said by a Scotsman....anyway, to the point in hand.
This appears, from the advertising campaign, the stills, and the trailers, to be primarily a vehicle for Ryan Reynolds, You are introduced to his likable yet caustic (hmmmm....sounds familiar) "Billionaire" via some narration and photos and articles scattered around, the action-flick exposition's bread and butter. We learn, with a sledgehammer, that he was a struggling kid born into sadness, but rose to a high standing through hard work. The question is; can he shake off Deadpool? Judging from this, yes he can. He cannot, however, seem to shake Wade Wilson. That is all I see. The dialogue does not help. We hear phrases like "Shitshow", and he is someone who went somewhere cynically, found it affected him profoundly, and then he changed his life to deal with it.
The scenes exposing the villain, a dictator of a fictional nation, that, you only have to study the subtitles, and know a little about basic modern Central Asian politics to deduce it is based on Turkmenistan, are appallingly nasty. The things the dictator says are just too evil. I know the bad-guy has to be hated, but give us some licence of deduction. There is a sort-of reverse Commando-Esque storyline involving replacing an evil dictator with a democratic one. Just for ease of telling, the two happen to be brothers. Still, this was never going to be The Man in the Iron Mask. The scenes of atrocities caused by the dictator, Alimov (Lior Raz) are upsetting, if lacking in subtlety. They seem to have realism, similar to Marc Foster's 2013 Zombie treat, World War Z. Cinematographer, Bojan Bazelli, is not used to this sort of movie. His previous work is usually quite shiny, and it has to be said, a bit more cerebral. He did The Ring, Kalafornia, King of New York, and the beautiful and massively-underrated Deep Cover with Lawrence Fishbourne. For those that are a fan of his excellent body of work, it will help know his magic touch was involved in this picture. He makes the war-scenes very plausible, a few too many fireballs (as any vet will tell you that does not happen) but no Vegas odds on who make that decision.
This director, if nothing else, is known for his formula, hence why, I was surprised, at twenty minutes remaining, that there had not been a monumental cock-up just as things began in the main action point. Ryan Reynolds gives a concise and very short speech to rouse the troops. Certainly no Scent of a Woman/Any Given Sunday competitor, but it does what it needs to. I am suspicious, as up until now, all the action and missions have (except for maybe the opening scenes), gone off without a hitch. I think back to staple per-Transformers Bay, and Armageddon, and The Rock, as well as Bad Boys. They all have a huge glitch, just as we think things are rolling for the goodies. Not here though. At one point during a key action phase that is going as planned, one character actually says "It always starts well." Life taking the mickey out of art, or vice versa
The tasks required to make the main deposing of the villain (who is only a shade off from Dr. Evil) possible, go off without a hitch. To quote the hilarious Movie Pitch series on YouTube it was "barely an inconvenience." In fact, I would like to predict they say that about this part of 6 Underground. I will not say more for spoiler's sake, except for the disguises in the Casino were hilarious and provided a true laugh-out-loud moment.
In conclusion, it is a little bit empty, but then again it knows who the audience is, or at least what they are expecting. This is a popcorn, switch your non-sensory part off, jingoistic Bay-piece. Yes, there are out-and-out failures. The forced and gruesomely un-sexy sex scenes were not needed. As mentioned though, the cinematography and the editing were first-class, which is a big slice of the action-movie pie after all.
For example, the banquet table scene at the end with "2" and "3" was super-cut and magnificently watchable. The product placement was irritating, and there were some really interesting openings left unfulfilled at the first mention. The dictators French hit-squad firm looked like a really interesting offshoot but was then left. Although as the hilariously-clumsy attempt to show you there will be plenty of sequels, even giving them a potential number (9 if you fancy it....good lord!) means it may be explored as a sort of Hydra-type nemesis. Maybe the writers think starting something and then cutting it off inexplicably is the same as introducing a later story. If so, big-fail there chaps.
So to cap it all off, yes it looks good, and yes it was a challenge not to call the main character Wade Stark but the fact is it is just not challenging enough, even for Bay. Just too easy.
Just one thing though, and this is a bit of spoiler line, so if you are sensitive to that, stop reading and go to
another review but I just have to ask: How much water was in that little pool?
Follow us on Twitter and tell us what you think