For pure gonzo outrageousness and steroidal silliness, this action spectacular made for Netflix by Michael Bay has a certain amusement factor and thumpingly unsubtle. And, incidentally, anyone who has seen Bay’s Florida crime caper Pain & Gain (2013) will know that he is not as dumb as he’s made out to be by all of us in the critical-gatekeepers-of-good-taste community. Having said that, the great man has done his best recently to live down to his reputation with a couple of insufferable Transformers films and 13 Hours, a celebration of gym-built, bearded US special forces guys blasting the hell out of foreign people in the Middle East. But 6 Underground – although every bit as infatuated with weaponry and violence as ever – does at least have a teeny bit of a sense of humour.
Basically, this is Bay trying to master the Mission: Impossible franchise style, perhaps specifically the Ghost Protocol film. It is about a team of freelance mercenaries who have been declared dead and now ply their trade underground, in the shadows, as ghosts. They are led by a guy calling himself Number One (Ryan Reynolds) assisted by a super-sexy badass known simply as Number Two (Mélanie Laurent), and it is as well the obvious jokes never occur to anyone.
Number One would appear to be extremely wealthy because he is evidently bankrolling the whole thing, although this is never spelt out. He has a wisecracking team working for him, including bulky tough guy Number Three (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo), free-running parkour daredevil Number Four (Ben Hardy), sleek operator Number Five (Adria Arjona), death-defying driver Number Six (Dave Franco) and ex-military hero Number Seven (Corey Hawkins). One of this crew gets offed, bringing the total number down to the titular six.
Bay kicks us off with a riotously over-the-top car chase scene in Florence that appears to pay homage to The Italian Job, featuring cars that appear to go through the Uffizi itself, and Number Four gives us some tasty parkour stunts atop the sacred Duomo. Are these being achieved digitally? They look very real.
This Italian romp is the first fusillade of nonsensical excitement in the six’s righteous mission – to topple super-bad-guy and chemical weapons enthusiast Alimov (Lior Raz), the hated tyrant of Turgistan, a Pakistan province that this film upgrades to the status of sovereign state. (Turgistan is invoked with the same deadly seriousness as the fictional and unstable Kreplachistan in the second Austin Powers movie.) They also plan to release his apparently nicer Bola Deposit Pulsa, Murat (Payman Maadi), from house arrest in Hong Kong with a view to installing him as the acceptable presidential alternative. (So much for democracy.)
And so it carries on, with an avalanche of luxury locations, deafening explosions, droll tagline gags and side-eye drolleries, and culminating in a bizarrely surreal scene aboard a huge yacht, in which Number One brings out his secret weapon – a hyper-strength magnet. It’s an entertainingly goofy and excessive folly from Bay.