At this point in his lengthy career, there is very little Michael Bay could do to surprise audiences outside of making a modest budget romantic comedy. And we all know that “modest” is not part of his cinematic vocabulary. When one thinks of a Michael Bay film words like “excess,” “explosions” and “hyper masculinity” come to mind.
Traits so over-the-top that they can only be described as “Bayhem.”
While Bay’s brand of action films felt revolutionary and thrilling in the 90’s, decades and numerous Transformer films later, his style has become formulaic. Nowhere is this more evident than in his latest film, and first with Netflix, 6 Underground. A film that goes further off the cliff of excess than one thought was possible even by Bay standards.
Clearly wanting to show that there would be no Fast & Furious films, arguably the new heir to his throne, without the road Bay paved, 6 Underground announces its swagger from its lengthy opening car chase. As if in a member measuring competition with himself, Bay’s film tries to out do itself in almost every frame.
This relentless arrogance is embodied in the characters as well, especially the Bruce Wayne-esque individual known as One (Ryan Reynolds). An American billionaire with his own international vigilante squad, who are considered “Ghost” as they have been perceived to be dead in regular life, One has dedicated his life to taking down terrorist and dictators. His numeric name team members consist of the spy Two (Mélanie Laurent); the hitman Three (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo); the parkour loving thief Four (Ben Bardy); the doctor Five (Adria Arjona) and the driver Six (Dave Franco). After one of their missions goes horribly wrong, a former Delta Force sniper Seven (Cory Hawkins) is brought into the fold.
While there are some genuinely inspired moments scattered throughout, Bay never lets the film breathe long enough to truly let them sink in. Mélanie Laurent’s wonderful turn as Two, and her charming relationship with Three, gets drowned out by the non-stop chaotic nature of the film. 6 Underground believes in a more is more philosophy. Characters cannot even have simple conversations without been subjected to flashbacks, quick stylized edits and extreme angles.
Similar to Fast & Furious, there is a lot of talk of family in the film. However, unlike that franchise, this film does not allow time for the bonds of friendship to grow. The original The Fast and the Furious was about the conflict a cop feels after befriending a criminal. The elaborate stunts simply accentuated that dynamic. Here Bay does everything in reverse in hopes of forcing a hyperactive square peg into a round hole.
Watching Bay try squeeze in elements that do not fit together becomes exhausting. As 6 Underground moves from superhero film to politically conscious commentary to outlandish action comedy and all things in between, the film feels like overwhelming attack on the senses. The viewer ends up feeling as if they are six feet underground, gasping for air and a moment of calm.