When I was growing up, there was nothing I liked more than a good action movie. Or a bad action movie. Action movies are fun in a way I think that other movies aren’t, really. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy other movies, but there’s something about an action movie that just sets it apart from all of the others.
I think we’ve lost some of that fun in the past few years. The rise of the Internet points is quick to point out that no, a man probably couldn’t stand on top of a jet while it spins wildly out of control and he shoots it, that a white tank top does not stop bullets, and that it’s cool that a woman spin kicks in such a way that her high heel is driven into a man’s eye, what about all of the moments leading up to that where it was unlikely that she could outrun him? There’s an expectation lately that our movies either make sense in a way that can be picked apart, or that they’re so over the top that the characters wink towards the audience about how silly it all is.
Which is why I was excited when I found out that Michael Bay, the king of the “don’t think about it” action movie was making a new one, this time for Netflix. Lately he had been sticking a lot to established franchises, making sure it was as difficult as possible to determine which giant robot was fighting another giant robot, but now he was going to make an action movie about a rich dude fighting evil with his mad money and whatever skillz (with a z on purpose) that he could loosely fit into the plot.
Welcome to 6 Underground, a real Don’t Think About It action movie.
Ryan Reynolds IS One, the aforementioned rich dude who made his money selling giant magnets (that factors into the plot) who, after witnessing how evil this general is, decides to form a group of vigilantes to take down all evil. He ends up recruiting five other people. Why five instead of an army his vast fortune would allow him to recruit? It doesn’t get explained. That’s the beauty of Six Underground, you don’t have to know. Just know that there has to be exactly six people who give up their identities and lives to fight crime. In the opening car chase, one of them dies. Is that a spoiler? It’s about 10 minutes into the beginning of the movie, which, as mentioned, is a giant car chase complete with commentary on the music, explosions, and someone bleeding out in the back seat. I don’t consider it a spoiler to say: He’s so committed to having six for no other reason than the title that much of the plot is given over to recruiting a man code named Seven, so there are official six on the team.
That’s right. They go by numbers, because this is a Michael Bay movie. Names have no meaning here.
Everything about this is classic action movie. It starts, as mentioned, with that car chase. What’s interesting about that is the subversion of the fact that we’ve already started to see the team “fail” on their first mission. That’s actually important, and a wonderful way to get us into the movie itself: it skips past a lot of the recruitment and getting to know you, but puts us in the action. It actually does two things for the movie that I personally think is brilliant: it sets up the stakes up front. These are supposed to be some of the top people in their respective fields: doctor, weapons, getaway driver, parkour parkouring guy… but it’s coming together that difficult for them. It sets up the rich, impossibly handsome guy as the underdog from the start, which is kind of true: he wants to do good but doesn’t know how to help.
There’s a trope in fiction of the rich billionaire trying to make things better. We often focus on Iron Man, who builds a military grade weapon then is surprised when people keep trying to steal it, or Batman, who tries to save the world through punching and being alone, but I think the best example of this trope is Lex Luthor. You see, Lex Luthor was extremely popular before Superman came to town, in almost every version. Then he sees this super-powerful alien come to Earth and offer to save everyone, and gets suspicious. Why? Because Lex Luthor is evil and craves power, he can’t understand why he’s trying to save everyone. So, he’s doing the right thing: stopping this powerful alien, but going about it wrong.
I think we tend to forget that these vigilantes, the ones who are super rich, do go about it in a roundabout way. One has enough money to go into hiding, buy an abandoned airstrip full of broken planes as a headquarters (for maximum coolness), and then hire a group of people to fake their own deaths and do the same. He could easily hire an army to run in, overthrow this evil general, and openly do it while bribing every politician who stops him but chooses not to. Why? Because he’s just as scared as the rest of us. He doesn’t know what to do. So, he helps in the only way he knows how: by putting giant magnets on a boat, activating them, and assassinating the rightful ruler of a country because he was mean. Because that’s all he knows: Magnets. And in fairness, One does make sure he puts evil general’s more popular brother in charge.
I think that’s kind of an interesting message for the movie: doing right because you don’t know what else to do. Sure, it’s dumb, but it’s something. But I kind of find that inspiring, because it’s a reminder that sometimes, you need to do something, even if it’s kind of dumb. But you see, I like that message. While I can’t relate to being a billionaire who looks like Ryan Reynolds, I can relate to not knowing what I’m doing, but wanting to help. My skills may not involve hiring people to jump off a building in the coolest way possible to do… why was he doing that? I’m still not sure. But I do have skills that can help, I just have to figure out how to do them. And the thing is, I think we’re all in that boat. And I think it’s important that we analyze that, and take a look at what we can do to help based on our skills. Even if we’re not sure what to do from time to time. Maybe it’s enough to do something.
I’m also overthinking what the message of this movie is, when it’s basically what I said before: a Don’t think About it Action movie. It has all the hallmarks of a great action movie, from the explosions to the bare minimum exposition (there’s also a woman he’s in love with that he leaves for zero reason, other than “to give him more back story) to the camera moving with urgency even during scenes where someone is talking. It’s classic action. It’s classic enjoyment. It’s a classic terrible movie that’s meant to escape for a few minutes. And maybe that’s what makes it so good.
This movie is inspirational. Just don’t think about it too much.
Hamlet T. Wondercat Says…
Out of Five