After a week of the preview blaring at me each time I opened the app, I finally watched Netflix’s new film 6 Underground last night. With Ryan Reynolds starring and a couple of funny wisecracking moments in the trailer, it’s easy to get your hopes up—but, for the most part, it’s a mistake. I don’t want to pan the movie too hard—I watched all two hours of it reasonably engrossed—but it’s not going to be something I remember next year, and it probably won’t be for anyone else, either.
Reynolds plays a disaffected tech billionaire who decides he’s had enough of evil in the world. So he recruits a batch of misfits, each with a special talent, and takes on the bad guys—specifically, the fascist, dictatorial regime of semi-fictional country “Turgistan.” The real Turgistan was a province of the Sasanian Empire, located in present-day Pakistan, and it quit being a thing in 651 AD. This bears little relation to 6 Underground‘s Turgistan, which is a thinly veiled pastiche of Syria and Abu Dhabi—complete with the chemical-weapon-deploying dictator of the former and the insane opulence of the latter. Reynolds and his motley gang are on a self-assigned mission to kill the amoral, evil dictator and replace him with his moral, good brother. Subtle.
6 Underground tries very hard to be at least four different movies and never quite lands any one of them. The first twenty minutes are one stupendous urban car chase—effectively, an homage to 1998’s Ronin, but with lots more shiny stuff, CGI, and things that go boom. But where Ronin delivered jaw-droppingly satisfying technical driving, 6 Underground just fakes it with camera cuts, revving noises, and iffy jokes. Later, the film takes desultory, half-hearted stabs at being Ocean’s Eleven, Deadpool, and Jarhead—but it can’t land any of those, either.
Ryan Reynolds does manage to deliver a few of his trademark edgy barbs well enough for a chuckle, and some of them weren’t even in the trailer. The extended parkour sequences, delivered by parkour collective Storror, also deliver some real thrills. But the “oh, snap” moments are few and far between, sandwiched between failed jokes, thin plot, and stuff going boom. None of the other actors really get their characters far off the ground, but it’s hard to blame them—they weren’t given much to work with.
I’d be pretty upset if I’d shelled out $10 for a ticket and another $12 for snacks to see this movie in a theater. But for all the negativity, it’s worth remembering that 6 Underground is a free watch, if you’re already a Netflix customer—and viewers who enjoy Michael Bay’s signature bang-boom-camera-cut style of action direction might find it more enthralling than I did. Either way, at the low price of “free with subscription,” it’s hard to stay mad at it, and there are worse places—such as the entirely awful Blackbear—to land in your endless Netflix scroll.
Listing image by Netflix