After more than 20 years deep in the scene of Hollywood, Michael Bay has become set in his ways. During a blast of a start with blockbusters such as “Bad Boys”, “The Rock”, and “Armageddon”, Bay looked like he was headed on a fast track for bigger and better things. Over time, the excitement dwindled into apprehension and caution. Instead of testing out new frontiers for his imagination, complacency became the new buzz word surrounding his films, with them featuring an increase in bolder and audacious action set pieces while there was a steady decrease in any figment of story or cohesiveness within the structure of his projects. Bay is a frustrating director to watch as he continues to settle for the bare minimum and not tap into his potential greatness. “6 Underground” is the action film that is the sum result of who Bay has become over the last decades – a generic filmmaker.
Action sequences in the film are arcadey and mayhem populates the screen, bloating it with a constant supply of weak enemies, chrome cars, bullets, blood, and extravagant stunt work. Adding on to the claustrophobia, the jagged editing is enough to trouble even people with the highest of attention spans. Many moments possess so many cuts in a short time that there is no room for the frames to breathe. When people fight hand to hand, you don’t see any of the blows connecting or landing at their destination. There is a heavy emphasis on explosions, even when you are not sure how cars and objects are easily combustible. Some of these sequences feel much longer than they need to be; the continuity required to allow momentum to build and deliver on its promise gets lost. On the contrary, elements of entertainment such as this would make for a fantastic video game. The film has frequent callbacks to games like “Call Of Duty” and “Grand Theft Auto” that will melt the heart of teenage boys everywhere with its hyper and energetic tone.
Wernick and Reese’s script is immature, barebones, and filled with a weird love affair for dated pop culture references – just like they’ve done in the “Deadpool” and “Zombieland” franchises. References span from “Breaking Bad” to Britney Spears to “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” to “Nick at Nite”, and then there is a painfully cringe-inducing rendition of the opening lines of Eminem’s “Lose Yourself”. The release date says it’s the year 2019 but this film will have viewers thinking they are still operating in the mid to late 2000s. What passes for humor is stereotypical quips on different ethnicities, raunchy middle school sex ponderings, and lame use of poorly timed punchlines. We are in the mind of screenwriters who are trying to create mindless entertainment that is “cool” and “flashy” to stand out. The story is the last thing anyone is paying attention to; if anyone can crack the code as to why we have this group of wannabe mercenaries going around looking to take out villains on high pedestals, more power to them. Nothing makes sense as to why and how these characters came to be. The audience is told (through copious amounts of exposition) that a billionaire just decided to fake his death and become dead to the world. This techie then goes around looking for other people willing to share in the same sacrifice and become a part of this “ghost” team and make the world less evil to live in. Sounds great on paper but the choppy emotional beats and awkward time jumps make it difficult for anyone to wrap their arms around this material.
“6 Underground” is a playground that looks exciting to play in but nevertheless leaves nothing memorable to latch on to. Michael Bay is who I thought he was: a one-note director practicing the golden rule of insanity, making the same film over and over again expecting a different result. “6 Underground” is an audacious mess of the action experience.
Caless Davis is a Seattle-based film critic and contributor to the Feelin’ Film Podcast. He loves any discussion of film and meeting new people to engage in film discussions on any subject. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram.