Look: You and I both know that 6 UNDERGROUND, by most metrics, is bad. If you thought it was legitimately good, you wouldn’t have clicked into this article, and if you agree it’s bad, you’re just here for a good ‘ol fashioned pan. And I mean… I don’t have any answers. Only questions. While there are things that I do think in a vaccum Michael Bay does well—those action sequences, the first dizzying car chase notwithstanding, are pretty good, his signature overblown stylization adding more than it’s deterring—I certainly can’t defend a bloated corpse of ‘90s blockbuster spectacle. So to go along with the six that exist underground, here are six questions to accompany Bay’s latest for Netflix.
1. Do movie stars matter any more?
I’ll admit something unpopular upfront: I like Ryan Reynolds. I like WAITING. I love DEFINITELY MAYBE. I saw BURIED high one time and that was a mistake but I think it was good (effective, at the very least). And even in spite of my tiredness, I’m glad he gets to make more Deadpool movies. So I’m fine with Ryan Reynolds being the A-list talent in an A-list blockbuster, to some reasonable degree. But even in spite of some truly talented character actors waiting in the wings, we’d have to drop a few letter grades to hit the next level of star. Of the six, neigh, seven that rotate through the titular squad, outside of Reynolds I’d hesitate to call any of them even B-list; there’s a high level of international talent here which was undoubtedly appealing to Netflix, but if Corey Hawkins is the next biggest draw, I think you have a problem. And look, everyone is having a lot of fun here, and not every movie needs to have OCEAN’S 11-caliber talent, I get that! But nonetheless, I’m shocked even post-prime Bay couldn’t draw someone else on Reynolds’ level to co-star. The bold prediction here would be that this movie ages very well, as Ben Hardy and Adria Arjona will only become more popular in the next few years, but the ship has sailed to make Mélanie Laurent and Manuel Garcia-Rulfo bonafide stars. Now as for Dave Franco? Well…
2. Has Hollywood given up on Dave Franco?
I mean, you read it and are thinking about it, so I’ll just say it: Is he collateral damage in the wake of his brother’s role in #MeToo? The post-DISASTER ARTIST filmography for Franco is… well. It’s not great. A pair of films you’d be well within your right to have never heard of (ZEROVILLE and the Netflix Abbi Jacobson drama/potential prequel to this movie, 6 BALLOONS) and a small role in the excellent IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK. Then this. And, spoiler alert, he’s not in this very much. At his best, Franco is as mouthy and snappy as Reynolds, if less attractive (obviously) and douchier (somehow), so he’s a good fit for 6 UNDERGROUND. But seeing him is… jarring; he’s not in the marketing due to his limited screen time, but he is easily the most cemented star on the cast. It’s an odd decision to not just find a way to make it 7 UNDERGROUND or some nonsense to get even a B-List star in there (again: See Question 1).
Ryan Reynolds knows what Dave Franco doesn’t. Cut down in his prime. RIP to this man
3. What makes being Michael Bay’s cinematographer appealing?
Look… if you’re a director of photography, you probably haven’t consistently worked with Michael Bay unless your name is Amir Mokri (BAD BOYS II, a pair of Transformers movies). I’m not saying Bojan Bazelli is Deakins or anything, but he’s been a competent cinematographer for roughly 30 years now and I think is doing really good work here. Or, at least I think he is. I’m not sure. I’m not sure how anyone could be sure. Someone on Reddit has probably calculated the exact amount of time spent on each shot in this film, but if it was less than one second it wouldn’t surprise me. It’s Michael Bay at his Michael Bay-est, frantic edits giving the illusion of movement and excitement but in reality creating a visual language of confusion and distraction. And while all of this is to be expected, Bazelli is doing a great job of creating that cocktail of sexy and mysterious and foreign that Bay strives for and it’s a shame it’s being wasted with such ADD editing. It bears asking what any of these cinematographers get out of working with him knowing the end result will be hackneyed.
4. How much sleep does Ryan Reynolds lose over the fact that in a movie with a gross amount of product placement, the gin of which he owns a stake in (Aviation American Gin) was not featured?
I understand the answer to this question is that he probably sleeps like a baby, as he’s a movie star and these things are trivial. But still, the Heiniken and Captain Morgan labels are burned in my brain, I mean, how truly committed to Aviation American Gin could he be if the characters are drinking the fucking Captain, STRAIGHT FROM THE BOTTLE mind you, when one of their friends has died. First of all, gross. Second of all, lost opportunity.
A real shot in this movie. That could’ve been Aviation American Gin, found at your local BevMo for $29.99
5. Where does Michael Bay weigh in on the Marvel discourse?
Martin Scorsese. Francis Ford Coppola. Michael Bay. Yes, one of these things is not like the other, and yet, I’d be curious to know if Bay, who is largely responsible for the state of the modern blockbuster, is a fan of Marvel (and what it’s come to mean) or not?
On paper, 6 UNDERGROUND shares many similarities to Iron Man or Batman, featuring a chippy tech billionaire playboy who uses his money and gadgets to quote-unquote “do good.” Now, “do good” here of course comes in the form of overthrowing a Middle Eastern dictator after faking death, because geopolitics and war are nothing but a canvas with which to blow shit up and feature Muse needle drops if you’re Michael Bay, but I digress—capes and masks be damned, this is basically a superhero movie. So let me attempt to surmise his answer. While the needless murdering of innocent civilians and the hard-R rating might suggest Bay is comfortable viewing his own brand of dumb action as being perhaps a cut above, and the painful non-linear introductions and flashbacks are so painfully executed that you can’t help but think of 6 UNDERGROUND eyerollingly as “a film by Michael Bay” because who else could weild such stupid power, I would be willing to bet he envies Marvel movies even if his God complex forces him to hate them. He helped build the hell we live in today, and I imagine he sees himself in one corner of the sandbox painfully wishing he saw the same baseline critical respect and pop culture cache.
6. Did Netflix think this was going to be the final blow that gave them the official edge over movie theaters, and is it?
The quick and dirty answer is no, of course not, but let’s playout the thought experiment nonetheless.
I guess technically speaking this question was first asked of BRIGHT back in 2017, which on some level I can understand. After all, it was a Will Smith movie, previously thought to be the kind of movie-going fare that was traditionally reserved for the theater. But watching 6 UNDERGROUND, I did feel even the smallest bit of sadness that I wasn’t watching that bonkers boat-magnet sequence in a theater, and Michael Bay is unquestionably the kind of director whose name feels synonymous with arguments AGAINST the rise of streaming—who if not Bay is making movies that demand to be seen in the loudest theater with the biggest screen? And yet here we are, $150 million worth of testosterone and action scaled down to my modest 50-something inches TV. It made me sad, but I suppose finding people like Bay to have in your corner is how you win these types of wars, so I have to imagine someone high up at Netflix thought this would be a tipping point (and maybe it is! Who knows! Yay to never seeing any hard streaming data!). 6 UNDERGROUND, like I said at the top, isn’t good by any metric, but that doesn’t mean morbid curiosity didn’t get me to watch it and you to click into this review, so perhaps that’s what all bad, dumb action movies will be one day: just morbid curiosities.