In 6 Underground, Ryan Reynolds – as the charismatic and mysterious One – leads a death-squad of professionals on a do-the-right-thing vigilante mission; to set in motion a coup that no one involved really wants, in the fictional middle eastern “Turgistan”.
We open with a question, “What if I told you I know what happens when you die?”. This foreshadowing is perfect, A – because it sets the plot and B – because when you think about it, it doesn’t actually make any sense. Still, the opening twenty-two-minute car-chase promises potential, laden with adrenaline baiting gun battles, heart stopping stunts, bloody gunfights and crucially – a quick to introduce our main characters, without the need to give them much narrative background. For a while, we think 6 Underground might just be Bay’s ticket to an action franchise, but alas – as soon as the guns stop firing, so does the film’s potential.
It’s a dangerous marker of our times that our action good-guys, who allegorically would have been soldiers or policemen – are now only viable to carry a film as a set of billionaire-organised anonymous force for good, with the entire world against them. What might make even less sense then, is the fact that billionaire One can still access his billions despite being legally dead and use them to buy weapons, planes and generally cause trouble in the name of “good”.
The above aside, what’s even more problematic – is that in parts, 6 Underground runs as billionaire propaganda, seemingly loaded with the idea that rich Americans with big dreams and an ultimately good moral compass will save us all. From the snappy dialogue, interspersed with lines from The Empire Strikes Back et al, to the red blue and white colour scheme on screen during a conversation about Captain America, 6 Underground delivers an anti-government message, despite presenting a protagonist who made his money in the very system he seeks to destroy.
Worse, is the thinly veiled treatment of Turgistan, a fictional middle eastern country which shares the same name as an ancient Sasanian empire. Loaded with the knowledge of the war on terror, it features a cruel, sadistic dictator without explanation of how said dictator became evil, or why – distilling what in reality would be a complex political scenario into the fault of one, mean guy who just needs to be replaced by his brother.
With the classic Bay eye and some really quite fun action scenes, we have to wonder – did the plot trip up this action romp? Because, the thing is – American billionaires are not coming to save us, and tumultuous political systems can’t be dismantled by the removal of a single person in power. But if you’re looking to “Netflix and chill” or for hangover fodder, 6 Underground delivers some good explosions; and doesn’t shy away from the gore.