14 December 2019 14:37
Every product here is independently selected by Mashable journalists. If you buy something featured, we may earn an affiliate commission which helps support our work. The following contains mild spoilers for Netflix's 6 Underground. "A glorious clusterfuck." That's how "One," a billionaire-turned-vigilante played by Ryan Reynolds, recounts his crew's inaugural mission. It's an apt descriptor for the havoc the six rogues inflict on the city of Florence in 6 Underground's opening scene, but it's just as fitting a summary of Michael Bay's Netflix debut overall.
A high-octane thrill ride as stupid as it is bloody, the streaming service's biggest play in the action genre delivers everything a subscriber could want from the Transformers director and a reportedly $150 million budget — except, unfortunately, a decent story. The first sequence, that aforementioned clusterfuck, sets the tone. A journey that would be fun if it didn't try quite so hard. Racing through cobbled streets, "Six" (Dave Franco) drives his lime-green sports car with reckless abandon, mowing down bystanders and bad guys alike. One, the leader, is in the passenger's seat, holding a dead lawyer's detached eyeball and remarking on the surprising length of the optic nerve. They need the eye to open a phone via retinal scan, but we don't know why yet. All that matters for now is the shock. In the back seat, "Five" (Adria Arjona) attempts to remove a bullet from the torso of "Two" (Mélanie Laurent), who thinks she's fine despite losing "a shit ton of blood" thanks to a gaggle of Italian mobsters. As a geyser of red liquid hits the window, there's an awkward joke about squirting — you know, for all those teenage boys at home who happened to notice these two action stars are women — then it's back to the directionless car chase. Jump-cut to parkour expert "Four" (Ben Hardy) scaling down the iconic Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore for God only knows what reason. "Three" (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo) awaits his arrival at a nearby rendezvous point. The pair plan to meet up with the rest of their war-weary team, then head toward something we hope resembles a plot. But, by the end of the rip-roaring mayhem, one of the six is dead [somber electronic music plays] and the replacement "Seven" (Corey Hawkins) must step up to bat. Watch this movie, then see if you can remember anyone's actual name. Image: netflix If that sounds like the mid-aughts theatrical release your 2019 streaming heart desires, then watch away! But if it sounds just a little sad? Advertised as "the most Michael Bay movie ever," 6 Underground tries so hard to deliver Netflix a win there's hardly any room left for a movie. The two-hour-and-seven-minute journey is packed with events and spectacle, but moves so fast that grabbing onto a compelling narrative proves impossible. It's got shootouts, ziplining, hand-to-hand combat, a scene from Shakespeare's Richard III, car chases, aerial tricks, an exploding pool, and hardly anything to tie it all together. But that's not for a lack of trying. About a third of the way in, we learn One started the Justice League-style team in an effort to see the wrongs of the world righted, to change atrocities his financial donations and activism never could. For 6 Underground's central mission, that means staging a coup against the dictator of the fictional country of Turgistan, the tyranny of which One witnessed first-hand. It's a decent start for a story of this scale, but Reynolds delivers the expository info with such deadened exhaustion these scenes might as well be replaced with intermission cards. Yes, he's saying his lines and reacting to the bedlam around him with believability, but his enthusiasm for the plot is next to nonexistent. Reynolds' cohorts behave similarly, doing their best to slap on a smile for each explosion, car chase, and instance of "Fuck you!" banter but failing to shine in the quieter moments, including their characters' individualized flashbacks. Everything about these beats scream, "Ignore all this, we're about to get back to blowing stuff up." Action sequences can't accommodate for lack of story, and this cast seems to know how out-of-touch the plot really is. There are moments in the script, written by Zombieland's Paul Wernick and Rhett Reese, that seem to acknowledge how under-baked these characters are and how idiotic this debacle really is. However, the self-aware jokes get swallowed by so many stunts and quick edits that the chaos can never rise to satisfying satire — assuming that's what was intended. Love to see stuff blow up. Image: Christian Black / Netflix Still, 6 Underground's failings seem to say more about the platform it's on than the talent directly involved with it. Positioned as Netflix's largest commercial play of the holiday season, this high-budget mess is reflective of the streaming service's shotgun approach to content curation and scrambled priorities when it comes to the action genre. With market competition heating up, 6 Underground should have been Netflix's battle cry for the 2020 streaming wars. Instead, it throws money and big names at a problem money and big names can't fix. Good enough to throw on in the background, but hardly worth your full attention, 6 Underground is oozing with style and effort — just don't expect to care about any of it. How to watch: 6 Underground is now streaming on Netflix.