Ryan Reynolds stars in Netflix's "6 Underground."

Ryan Reynolds stars in Netflix's "6 Underground." Credit: Netflix/Christian Black

THE MOVIE "6 Underground"

WHEN|WHERE Streaming on Netflix

WHAT IT'S ABOUT Ryan Reynolds stars as a billionaire code-named One, who forms a team of vigilantes that fake their deaths in order to go deep undercover as "ghosts." Their first serious mission: targeting the corrupt ruler of the fictional Middle Eastern nation of Turgistan. Lots of explosions ensue, in the typical Michael Bay fashion.

MY SAY "6 Underground" finds Bay in vintage filmmaking form, overdirecting every minute of the movie to the point where it's nearly incomprehensible. That's certainly his characteristic style, so it's hard to be surprised by encountering it here, but Bay's first movie for Netflix utterly lacks the fun characterizations and genuinely humorous moments that set apart his best work, such as "The Rock." Everyone involved in this movie — from the director to Reynolds and the rest of the cast — is on total autopilot.

The film begins with a car chase through the streets of Florence that is cut into smithereens, without any of the establishing perspective necessary to create a suspenseful cinematic sequence. There are endless, disorienting low-angle close-ups of Reynolds and his co-stars (including Dave Franco and the great actress Mélanie Laurent, who had better have gotten a big paycheck for this) and lots of weirdly comic slow-motion digressions to fully establish the fundamental truth that none of this matters in the slightest.

Once this endless, headache-inducing sequence mercifully wraps up, the screenplay by Paul Wernick and Rhett Reese hastily establishes the thin backstory that involves Reynolds and the other five members of his team faking their deaths and beginning to pursue their ill-defined work off the grid. It's never clear why they needed to take such a drastic step to take part in what is really just garden variety movie espionage, very low-rent James Bond stuff, but there you have it.

With villains that are stock types straight out of a bad '80s genre picture, main characters that are so sketichly crafted that you'd be hard pressed to identify one distinguishing thing about them and a general aesthetic approach that resembles a terrible perfume ad with explosions, there's precious little in the way of a saving grace here.

The best action movies are fundamentally rooted in some form of reality. That's either manifest in the creation of scenes that feel like they could really happen — say, the renowned car chase in "The French Connection" — or the presence of actors who are capable of elevating ridiculous material to an entertaining place. Nicolas Cage and Sean Connery did that in Bay's "The Rock," and the same is largely true of the "Armageddon" ensemble that included everyone from Steve Buscemi to Billy Bob Thornton.

"6 Underground" has none of this. It is a chore to watch from start to finish. No amount of Bay's usual fixations, from endless camera movements to shots of helicopters framed against the warm glow of the sun, can change that reality.

BOTTOM LINE: This is a terrible action movie that utilizes Michael Bay's worst instincts and none of his best.

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