Review: 6 Underground Is Fun but Full of Tired Michael Bay-isms
Whether we like it or not, Michael Bay is back, and within the first 30 minutes of his and Netflix’s 6 Underground, most, if not all, of his Bay-isms are established.
There are explosions, a rock soundtrack, military worship, and of course, objectification of women. The film begins with a lengthy car chase through Florence, which could have been a make-or-break situation with the close call some puppies had with being run over. During this chase, the first six of seven protagonists are introduced.
There’s Ryan Reynolds as One, the billionaire tech wizard and mastermind behind the group; Mélanie Laurent as Two, a former CIA agent; Manuel Garcia-Rulfo as Three, the hitman; Ben Hardy as Four, referred to as the “Skywalker” with his Assassins Creed-style parkour skills; Adria Arjona as Five, the doctor; and finally, Dave Franco as the driver, Six. Each character is introduced quite quickly with some cool, flashy close-ups and a stylistic title card, but Franco’s character, Six, is quick to remind the viewer that this is a Bay movie as he says, “She squirted!” in reference to Two gushing blood from a bullet wound.
And that’s not all; the camera also pans up a woman’s bare legs as Six ogles. 6 Underground is one of those films where you look at the female protagonists and go, “Someone save her!”
Also within the film’s first 30 minutes, we are introduced to Seven (played by Corey Hawkins), a former American soldier who recently served in Afghanistan, ticking off Bay’s military box from the checklist. For most of the film, you can’t help but think of the lazy writing that goes into not giving any of the characters a name, but while they are revealed later, each of their backstories remain thin, only allowing for some short flashbacks to what led them to finding each other.
One is the leader of the group, and he is the one who found each member that forms his team. They call themselves Ghosts, as they are all dead—well, legally, at least. They’re a group of haunted people who signed away their life in order to make up for past sins. These highly skilled ghosts take on jobs that no one else will. They take jobs that they believe will free people, like taking out a dictator, and this is the mission we follow them on.
It’s easy to accept that Reynolds will probably never be in an action film of Deadpool’s caliber ever again. Despite 6 Underground being written by Deadpool’s writers, Paul Wernick and Rhett Reese, it’s your basic good vs. bad action plot loaded with filler, but there’s some great action in this, and all you can really ask for from Bay is a fun ride, which he delivers.
There are some impressive stunts, like One parachuting out of a plane as it falls right next to him, the use of first-person as Four parkours off scaffolding, and fight scenes accompanied by the beautiful sound of THX. While Bay’s gaze leaves a bad taste, there are no damsels in distress. Both Arjona and Laurent can carry their own, and while Arjona, for no fault of her own, has less to do because of her doctor role, Laurent steals the show. It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that Bay gives her the spotlight more than other characters, as she lands the most impressive punches and delivers the most killer shots.
There are scenes in 6 Underground that fail to carry their emotional weight because of their poor execution, but the ending is surprisingly touching and celebratory enough that you can almost forgive Bay for being Bay. In the end, as Four says, “This is so stressful,” because, as a female viewer, you anxiously anticipate what Bay is known for: objectification of women. And there is quite a bit, especially with side characters—shots of legs, butts, and women in lingerie galore.
During his work on Transformers, he was famous for saying that all he wanted from Megan Fox was to “just be sexy” and “be hot,” and being a female viewer, while watching anything from Bay, you can’t help but remember when he made a fifteen-year-old Fox pose in a bikini for Bad Boys II. She was sexualized and objectified but was made out to be the villain.
While Fox seemingly forgave him and went on to star in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, as Princess Weekes as The Mary Sue’s own Princess Weekes brought up two years ago, have we just decided to forgive Hollywood for what they did to Fox? It seems like more are willing to forgive Bay for his treatment of women than Fox for her comments about a male director. Calling him out was ahead of its time, before #MeToo, but if she had done so today, maybe it would be Fox finding success on Netflix, rather than Bay.
But as Princess wrote, “When women fail and make mistakes, it follows them forever.” No Ghostly do-overs.
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