Written by Ram Venkat Srikar
I’ve always admired people who defeat their inhibitions and fully embrace what they want to achieve, provided that I like what they are trying to make piercing way through their restraints. In 6 Underground, Michael Bay explicitly lets go of his inhibitions as a filmmaker, and somehow, I had to change my opinion about his impediments. Over the years, Michael Bay set some ground rules in his films which the general movie fans are quite familiar with. So, after viewing 13 of his films, do you think critically dissecting the editing style employed, the way the film is shot, or usage of music, would reveal anything unique in his 14th film? No.
6 Underground has the words “Michael Bay” written on each and every frame, bold, underlined and highlighted. It is the filmmaker in his comfort zone. Exotic locations, courtesy to the location scouting team; titled camera angles, courtsey to the broken tripod; rock music at a dozen of instances, courtsey to the respective composers; and chaotic car chases, courtesy to the stunt and camera department. It’s all packed in there, in no proper proportion.
The film opens with One’s (Ryan Reynolds) voice-over narrating how after-life feels like, and it takes 25 minutes of a car chase to get little idea about what the film has been about till then and what awaits from then. The plot, in one line, could belong to the Mission:Impossible or Fast and Furious franchises. The hero assembles a team after removing their footprint in the world by proving them dead, to accomplish a mission, to save the world. There are six of them, and they are underground. See! That is it. The screenplay takes this team to Florence, Vegas, Hong Kong, and where not! But was it vital, though? Characters have sex at the most unusual and unnecessary points in the narrative. Forget crucial, not necessary, in any way. They add no depth to the characters or the proceedings. As I write this, I recall most of the scenes are unnecessary. Let it be the little flashbacks the film cuts to, every time a character gets an unnecessary backstory, which adds no texture to their personality. I just realized I’ve used “unnecessary” way more than I should, but I can’t help it, the word cumulates my thoughts on the film.
In Michael Bay’s films, close-ups have no importance, same with the wide shots, drone shots and any other shots; the camera is physically present to capture what’s happening. This applies here as well, so, there’s no point arguing. There are moments where the writers act pretentious by plugging in Shakesphere and Napoleon into conversations, which add no value, as expected. Somehow, amidst the explosions, humans defying every physical notion, what salvages this great-looking mess is how the writers treat Reynolds’ character, One. Paul Wernick and Rhett Reese, who also wrote Deadpool, have somehow understood Ryan Reynolds’ persona and smartly use it. At this point, Deadpool and Ryan Reynolds are inseparable, and this gives little satisfaction as five out of his ten one-liners land, taking the total ratio of jokes landed to the jokes attempted to 2:10
The actors here have little material to play with. Either look angry, or kick or shoot an armed person, or do both together, which give some gloriously gory moments. A conversation between two characters over the quality of a song, ends with, “that is subjective”. So is 6 Underground. If your definition of entertainment is associated with blowing cars, blood-spilling action, and gravity-defying stunts (it’s a cliched phrase, I’m aware), watching it on the biggest screen possible with a thumping sound system could partially make up for what it lacks, a cohesive story. Although good writing can in no way be compensated with technical capabilities, they at least make the experience less painful.