Review: In Ryan Reynold’s First Netflix Film 6 Underground, Dead Men Play God
In 2017, the Telegraph broke the story of how the notorious black market trade in the Philippines was a gateway for foreigners to fake their deaths, collect their life insurance, and live the good life. One official death certificate validating someone’s fake death marked a new beginning, free of credit card debt, unwanted marriages, and all the shitty parts of life. Sounds pretty appealing, to be honest.
Ryan Reynolds stars as One, the leader of a ragtag group of vigilantes
That’s pretty much the scenario of Netflix’s latest action-thriller film 6 Underground, helmed by veteran director Michael Bay and megastar Ryan Reynolds. Only, instead of raking up their life insurance, the characters of 6 Underground set about fixing the world. After erasing their pasts, the six-man team of reluctant heroes embarks on one hell of a ride full of guns and gore in this huge Michael Bay spectacle. Anything with Bay’s name attached to it is bound to be big and flashy—this man knows not the word “subtlety”—and 6 Underground is no exception. It’s a film made purely for entertainment, but its fault lies in more than its shallow storyline—it’s the fact that the film rode on the back of a supposedly altruistic premise of making the world a better place, courtesy of its white man savior complex and amoral methods.
In a time of political upheaval, it begs the question of whether films like this are still acceptable and palatable to the conscious viewer.
In the film, the team of “ghost” assassins puts a target on the back of a cruel dictator in a made-up country called Turgistan, which is located in the Middle East—naturally. Of course, the dictator is Middle Eastern, as if Islamophobia is not already perpetuated enough on every media platform. The dictator drops gas attacks, bombs hospitals, terrorizes refugees—sound familiar? Despite being billed as simply good action cinema, the political undertones can’t be set aside as simple plot devices, especially in a time when such circumstances already exist.
Led by One, an altruistic billionaire, the members of the team include a rogue CIA agent, a hitman, a parkour pro, a doctor, and a soldier. As expected, they’re also assigned numbers in an effort to not get attached to each other—something they fail at doing with each other but succeed at doing with the audience. Each character was only given glimpses of depth, which existed in shallow waters at best. Surprisingly enough, it’s not Reynold’s character that stood out, but that of Four, the young, sharp parkour pro, fearlessly brought to life by actor Ben Hardy. Four’s killer parkour tricks definitely helped.
Ben Hardy as Four
The action is probably the film’s saving grace, going back to the classic guns, cars, and gore age of action-thrillers, with Bay’s stylized touch. Described as Reynolds as the most Bay film Bay has ever done, 6 Underground is also just as “muscular” as Reynolds says. The opening car chase has an almost nostalgic feel to it, throwing action fans back to when car chases were a film’s most anticipated moment. The team’s comedic dynamic even in fight sequences are also in the same vein as the gang in The A-Team. Each action scene just gets bigger and bigger, almost as if Bay is showing off and reminding us who he is. There are countless scenes that will keep you on the edge of your seat, and action junkies will eat it up. But there’s no secret the film is Rated R, a fact that’s given it the freedom to cross borders that contradict with its billionaire-against-corruption storyline.
Collateral damage, in the form of pedestrians and (almost) babies, is treated as a running joke, one that might be funny for a minute, but is hard to swallow for two hours. It’s a Deadpool approach to a film that is far from a hero movie. And if anything, it indirectly became a political fantasy film that feeds our deepest desires to overthrow shitty world leaders with the same ruthless, amoral methods as One’s crew. Who wouldn’t want to save the world, free from the red tape of modern bureaucracy? Laws, rules, ethics be damned, so long as you can kill the guy killing everyone else.
And there is the crux, the secret weapon of 6 Underground that perhaps wasn’t even intentional. It’s a romanticized depiction of revolution, democracy, and restoring peace—as if it were that easy. Almost everyone has had a moment when they’ve read the news and wished that all the terrorism and tragedies would just end. When the world is going to shit, 6 Underground is the fantasy we wish would actually happen, but we know in our bones won’t. Despite its outlandish political incorrectness, it got one thing right.
A billionaire who uses all his money to actually save the world? Only in movies.
6 Underground will be released on Netflix on December 13.