If there's a message One (Ryan Reynolds) would like to impart, it is that being dead is a pretty good state to be. As a billionaire who was presumed deceased in a light aircraft accident, he somehow found himself as a kind of secret agent with the perfect cover, for he was no longer of this world as far as everyone else was concerned. This was also the case with his team, the 6 Underground who were also enjoying the freedom of their "dead" status, because they could act with impunity, creating as much mayhem on a mission as they were able and well aware they were getting away with murder, literally in some cases. But a Middle Eastern dictator needs to be taken down now...
This entry in the slam bang Michael Bay action canon was snapped up by Netflix to stream on their internet service, another big name for them in 2019, though not one who was providing the same level of prestige as your Martin Scorsese or Alfonso Cuarón. This was a self-conscious crowd-pleaser, however, not targeted at the artier end of the market as the service's higher up the intellectual standing signings had been, more a Christmas present for those who simply wanted to vegetate in front of an easy-to-watch effort over the holiday period. Was that selling Bay short when he appeared to be taking this very seriously? It was a largely unserious picture, it had to be said.
But not quite a comedy, for while Reynolds was fed lines by his Deadpool screenwriters Paul Wernick and Rhett Reese that were supposed to be funny, there was a bizarre, sincere attack on the dictators of the world and a call for their oppressed countrymen to rise up and overthrow them. It came across as from a country that never got over the Iraq War - the United States, rather than actual Iraq which had a lot more reason to air grievances over how that had turned out, but the self-aggrandising belief that the Americans were the defenders of the Free World was all over 6 Underground, to the extent of suffocating much of the potential opportunities for amusement.
Reynolds could do this kind of flip, irreverent thing in his sleep, but was only as good as his material, which here was curiously whiny, his codenamed character always finding something to complain about amid the general mayhem. The rest of the team were "characters" or "types" rather than convincing as a crack squad of special forces, meaning this was yet another action flick to owe plenty to James Bond, though some may observe a Mission: Impossible vibe to how this played out. The script took its own sweet time in setting out what was the most basic of men (and women) on a mission plots, digressing to crowbar in another action sequence that lasted a good half hour of the opening act, if not longer, before it settled down for the anti-dictator business that comprised the bulk of the running time.
Say what you like about Bay, he was slick and could deliver a sleek-looking setpiece, but his tries at the more emotional scenes fell flat and dragged down what would have been tighter and more in keeping with his reputation if they had been excised. There followed a series of empty, hollow bits of narrative to link the reason we were here, the explosions and car chases and stunts, which may have had you pondering what Bay would have been like had he not had such a flair for the superficial. There was one memorable part where Reynolds used magnetism to create a weapon on a ship, which really demonstrated where all that reputed one hundred and fifty million dollar budget had gone (it was not really on the cast, as aside from the leading man they were vaguely recognisable but not that famous). Throw in sub-Tarantino pop culture references to taste, and stir till ready, that was, doze off in front of after your dinner and wake up when it gets too loud to sleep through. Music by Lorne Balfe.