6 Underground is not good. In so many ways, this film is an incoherent mess that fails on just about every key level. That being said, on the most basic level it is very entertaining .
The film’s premise centres around a group of highly talented, legally declared dead individuals who act as ‘ghosts’ to ‘take out bad guys’, led by Ryan Reynolds who plays a billionaire genius. Disregarding the lack of logic, it is a concept that, with the proper suspension of disbelief, lends itself to potentially interesting and entertaining action/adventure setpieces, which this film is chock-full of. The film’s hyper-violent action sequences are as over-the-top as they are creative, and action fans can appreciate the amount of in-camera (i.e. not CGI, though there’s plenty of that too) action. It’s clear that director Michael Bay knows how to stage and execute practical action, and for that he deserves praise.
He also shows absolutely no restraint (or common sense) with its on-screen presentation. This film is shakily shot and absurdly hyper-edited, as if it assumes that the already bombastic action wasn’t enough to hold an audience’s attention for more than three seconds. Not only is the editing somewhat headache-inducing, it does a total disservice to the impressive production design and stunt work on display. Considering the fact that an action film’s main goal is to entertain the audience with good action sequences, to the degree that this was achieved on set, it was also ruined in the editing room.
To add insult to injury, many of these scenes also have multiple musical cues that completely interrupt the pace of the action. In an attempt to describe the jarring nature of this choice, I invite you to envisage the following. Picture a car chase in which the heroes are being chased, and are clearly at a disadvantage. Then, in a fortuitous turn of events, they gain the upper hand, and we hear an exciting upbeat radio song that reflects this. Although this might sound logical and effective, by the third time round (I may have counted seven at one point), it becomes jarring almost to the point of feeling sea-sick and absolutely ruins the pace of the scene. To put it bluntly, the editing in this film is god-awful.
How is the acting? Fine. How is the story? Totally nonsensical and absurd, perfectly in line with the rest of the film. However, it’s also told in a strangely non-linear way that thinks it’s more clever than it is. On the positive side, the character interactions were entertaining enough, with each character having a stand-out specific skill set. Most memorable is Mélanie Laurent, whose character has a totally commanding screen presence.
At the end of the day, I was able to look past the awful editing and, on a purely basic entertainment level, I appreciated the scale of the spectacle, as it is truly something to behold. That being said, it is likely major critics will see this film and consider it expensive, overproduced visual noise which it absolutely is. The exhausting editing and pace feel like sensory overload, unfortunately masking the genuinely impressive action onscreen.
Essentially, don’t see 6 Underground unless you really want to, in which case, know what you’re getting into, open up Netflix and take comfort in the fact that you can always close it after five minutes.
Image: Chris Jackson via Flickr