Netflix's '6 Underground' an entertaining self-aware parody of Michael Bay's Bayhem

Photo by: Payman Maadi, Corey Hawkins, Ryan Reynolds, Adria Arjona, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo and Lior Raz at the Netflix premiere of “6 Underground” held at The Shed on December 10, 2019 in New York City.

As the nation and the world continue to battle the Coronavirus, theaters have shut down and the latest Hollywood movies have been put on the backburner. Most of us are sitting at home, trying to wait out the virus with social distancing, and need some form of entertainment — either to simply distract ourselves, or to offer a brief respite from what seems like an endless stream of bad news. For now, and into the foreseeable future until this virus breaks and life returns to normal, I’ll be highlighting movies and content available on Netflix and other streaming services. We can all find something to watch — be it quality entertainment, or not so much — while we wait out this storm. Let’s start with director Michael Bay’s latest, “6 Underground,” currently available on Netflix.

When Hollywood studios turn down the latest Bay flick, priced at around $200 million, that’s probably not going to be a very good sign of things to come. Bay is fresh off “Transformers The Last Knight,” which was so incoherently plotted and so badly received, it literally killed the live action “Transformers” franchise, prompting Paramount to rewrite and reshoot its would-be spinoff, “Bumblebee,” to completely separate it. Bay’s name isn’t that popular at the moment, and combine it with box office poison Ryan Reynolds, and you have a movie that was destined to be direct-to-streaming, no matter what.

“6 Underground” follows a group of good-buy mercenaries who all faked their deaths in order to complete an operation to take down a generic Middle Eastern leader who looks an awful like a stand-in for Bashar al-Assad ruling over a fake country that looks an awful like Syria. Reynolds leads the group as a billionaire inventor who faked his own death to fight crime. Bruce Wayne, he is not.

The colorful cast of characters and their charisma helps hold together a threadbare plot that lacks details and doesn’t even answer the questions it poses, like who are these people and why are they doing these things. The movie constantly hints at the backstory of Reynolds character, One, but offers no answers. Various other characters receive a bit more development, but it’s obvious character depth was not a prerequisite for this script.

It’s actually hard to tell what was required for any part of the script, which often feels like a series of vignettes spliced together to form a two-hour action romp. The first half of the movie bounces back and forth between multiple timelines and multiple backstories to the point where it’s near impossible to follow along with the sequencing. The pacing is one of the script’s biggest issues — starting with a near 20-minute car chase at the beginning before bottoming out for the middle of the flick.

To be fair, few watch a Bay film for the script. It’s the action that he’s noted for, and he brings his best to “6 Underground.” Don’t be fooled by the movie’s distribution. Even on Netflix, this is one of Bay’s best looking movies. He leans heavily into his favored aesthetics with over-saturated colors, bold lighting and dust-covered images. Explosions and car crashes are as crazy as ever, topping even some of the more insane setpieces from the “Transformer” franchise. Cars don’t simply crash; they explode in massive fireballs with sparks flying from the sides of the screen while bodies are thrown into the air like crash-test dummies, only to bounce off other cars in a chain reaction wreck. It reaches the levels of ridiculousness, and then continues onward.

“6 Underground” is the most Michael Bay movie Bay has ever made. At times, it almost feels like a parody of Bay films — as if someone is trying to lampoon him for every gratuitous over-choreographed chaotic action scene he’s ever made. But it’s not; this is totally Bay. He uses his eye for action and his penchant for destruction as a crutch for the remainder of the film’s shortcomings — which is just about everything not involving gunfights or something exploding. It’s loud and crass with everything one can expect from a modern Bay film. Whether that’s something that interests you, or whether it’s something you want to avoid like COVID-19, is entirely dependent on how much you enjoy slick action, fast cars and the occasional gratuitous shot of the female figure. At least it’s available for only the cost of a Netflix subscription. Sometimes, that can make the world of difference.

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