6 Underground – review (Netflix)

A tech billionaire (Ryan Reynolds) decides to fake his death and assembles a team, all of whom are believed to be dead, to combat tyrants who are above the law. Using his vast resources, he recruits five people to join him. He insists that they all address one another by numbers to maintain anonymity. He is to be known as One.

When on a mission in Italy Six (Dave Franco) is killed during a car chase. One is forced to recruit another to the group, Seven (Corey Hawkins). He prevents Seven from committing suicide and persuades him to join his cause. After attending his own funeral, Seven meets the other members of the group. Two (Mélanie Laurent) is an ex-CIA operative. Three (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo) a former hitman. Four (Ben Hardy) a thief and parkour athlete and Five (Adria Arjona), a doctor.

In One’s former life, he had visited Turgistan on a peace mission. A blasé One moves around the mission barely listening to the missionaries as they tell him about the problems they face, telling his assistant to write a cheque. When the mission gets targeted by military jets dropping gas on the camp. One decides to go after the man who is responsible, dictator Rovach Alimov (Lior Raz).

Four years later, with the crew assembled, One plans to replace Rovach with his estranged brother, Murat (Payman Maadi), who has a more utopian outlook for his country and, in One’s estimation, would be a more benevolent leader.

6 Underground seems to be director, Michael ‘blow it up!’ Bay’s version of the eighties George Peppard/Mister T television classic, The A-Team. Written by Paul Wernick and Rhett Reese, 6 Underground is two-plus hours of noisy hokum, Bay style. All of Bay’s signatures are used: teal and orange – check. Hero shot – check. Ludicrous car chase – check. Loud explosions – check. A bewildering amount of edits – check. It is all there on the screen in a film that is style over the very little substance the film has.

Make no mistake this film is as bad as that other ensemble piece of some years back, 2010’s The Losers, 6 Underground is light on plot or believability. Not that that is a problem necessarily in an action, shoot-em-up flick such as this is but one really does not care about anyone or anything in the film.

Ryan Reynolds channels his best Ryan Reynolds, quipping his way through proceedings and wearing his Chuck Norris beard well. Hawkins’ Seven is introduced to try and give the film some heart and somebody to care about. It partly works but the overall premise of them being ‘ghost’, having faked their deaths to join Reynolds’ One on his mission, is horribly weak.

None of the group seems to have a compelling reason to leave all they know behind and go gung-ho on ‘bad’ people whom One identifies as needing to be taken down a peg. One’s reasoning for deciding to create the band of mercenaries seems to be more of a Batman fantasy rather than a noble venture. He simply had run out of things to spend his billions on.

The acting is fine, such as it is. Not that it is really required, the dialogue, some of which is particularly woeful, is only there to link action scenes. Unfortunately, it does not do so with any of the panache of the John Wick films that similarly prioritise action over talking.

Raz’s Rovach is pure pantomime villain, killing his would-be generals in one scene because they were the ones who stood to gain the most from the removal of his original generals after they had been killed by One and his crew. Maadi’s Murat is probably the best character, bringing some levity and fearfulness to proceedings.

6 Underground is not for the squeamish. It is extremely violent, with blood in abundance, exploding and severed heads and limbs and brutal beatings handed out liberally throughout the film. The frenetic nature of the editing and the slightly over-lit picture does at times make it difficult to understand what is going on or who is chasing whom.

With an estimated budget of one hundred and fifty million dollars and a runtime of some two hours and nine minutes, 6 Underground is an expensive waste of talent. It is at least twenty minutes to a half-hour too long, the story is not at all compelling and it takes too long to get going, the first hour taken up with a very patchy backstory and a twenty-minute chase sequence just to kill off – the luckiest actor in the whole film in Franco – Six.

6 Underground is aimed at people who like Michael Bay films, even the bad ones. If you like the Transformers series you will enjoy 6 Underground. It is not a film that is going to challenge the likes of the aforementioned John Wick films or Netflix’s other big offering for this Christmas season, The Irishman.

6 Underground is a passable two hour plus actioner if you are into that sort of thing. It is a leave the brain in neutral film and let it wash over you. If you expect or want anything cerebral, give it a miss.