Darkly comedic “6 Underground” is 2 hours of car-crazy chaos
Puppies, babies, nuns. No one is safe from 6 Underground’s vigilantes as they careen through Florence in a bombastic 20-minute car chase. The team and their pursuers destroy fruit carts, outdoor dining areas, a wedding cake, Vespas (and their riders), street art, museums, and more. The opening car chase would be a respectable centerpiece sequence for the climax of any other action movie, but it’s the scene that filmmaker Michael Bay chooses to start his film. It’s the perfect prelude to two hours of chaos.
The depraved, darkly comic 6 Underground—released a few months ago—is a bit like if Batman funded and assembled a team of specialists whose approach to justice was more reminiscent of the Joker’s. There’s even a scene where Five (Adria Arjona) and Three (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo) disable people in a hotel lobby with laughing gas and paint a grin on one of their masks. When we first meet this suicide squad, they’ve just killed the lawyer for (the fictional country of) Turgistan’s four generals and retrieved his eyeball. It’s their first mission ever, and it’s an absolute disaster—and now they’re on the run from cops and criminals alike.
A character known only as Six (Dave Franco wearing a cap that says DEATH WISH) is in the driver’s seat of a Day-Glo green 2019 Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio. The car “blends right into the Italian architecture,” according to One (Ryan Reynolds), who rides shotgun, with Five and Two (Mélanie Laurent) in the back.
In Rush Hour, Jackie Chan does everything he can to prevent priceless Ming vases from getting destroyed in the film’s climactic fight. This car chase feels like the opposite of that scene. In order to elude a chopper, the team drives through a museum, destroying Bernini’s Apollo and Daphne on their way through. (For those who sympathize with Chan, no real sculptures were harmed during the making of this film; they were 3D printed.)
There’s never enough drifting in car chases, but Bay remedies that here. Cars drift and slide around Florence’s monuments, perhaps most notably when the Alfa Romeo drifts around the Cosimo de’ Medici statue. (Stunt driver Brett Smrz trained Dave Franco at Willow Springs so he could do some of his own driving and drifting for real.) They even drive through the real Palazzo Pitti—after replacing the palace’s real glass door with candy glass so stunt drivers could crash through it. Considerate. In an interview with Men’s Journal, Smrz explained the difficulties of maneuvering through the Palazzo Pitti: “It was a very tight space with not much room for error. In some spots there were only inches to spare, and if we damaged anything inside the museum we would have been in really big trouble.”
On Spike Feresten’s podcast Spike’s Car Radio, Smrz described driving through the museum as “nerve-wracking.” His only preparation: walking through the museum once to see whether the stunt was even possible. Then he had to show up on the day of shooting to drive through the candy-glass door going 35 mph. Smrz said you couldn’t see through the door and he had only “20 feet to stop afterwards to make the turn”—or else he’d run into a statue inside the museum. The marble floor was already slippery, and once the glass shattered, that would make it even more slippery, increasing his chances of skidding into something priceless. Adding to the pressure, Smrz only had one shot at making the stunt work. (Obviously, and thankfully, he did.)
Production had five Giulias on hand for the sequence. Smrz told Spike Feresten that the Giulia is a reliable car for a daily driver, but for a stunt driver, the aids were an issue, so they “had some extra mods on there.” Production had to call in an Alfa Romeo technician to disable the car’s safety features like ABS, traction control, stability control, airbags, and steering. (The car was, of course, made safe for its passengers in other ways, like safety harnesses.) And though the Giulia was a pain to modify, the car more than makes up for its disadvantages in a car chase: it’s capable of going from 0–60 in 3.8 seconds and its top speed is 191 mph.
A hallmark of Bay’s filmography is his car fetish, which is proudly on display here. Although this is 6 Underground’s most impressive chase, it isn’t the film’s only car action. There’s a mini chase (wink) with a Mini Cooper and a fleet of police cars in pursuit which is intercut with a Parkour foot chase happening in and on the buildings above the team. And a silver 2018 Ferrari 488 Pista that makes an appearance later in the film rivals the Giulia in flashiness. In stark contrast to the fluorescent hero car, most of the villains drive black cars and motorcycles. Other vehicles that turn up include a Triumph Street Triple 675, Mercedes Benzes (C300, E63, and a C63 AMG Wagon), Audis (A6, A4, TT), a BMW M5, a Subaru WRX, Chevy Suburbans, and a Maserati Quattroporte. Tragically, many of them don’t survive: in less than 20 minutes, 20 cars, four mopeds, two motorcycles, and one truck are destroyed.
And the Bayhem is heightened by the frenetic way in which 6 Underground is shot and edited, with dizzyingly fast cuts and slow-motion explosions. This, and its absurd amount of carnage, makes the chase feel like live-action Looney Tunes. It does not skimp on violence. Blood geysers from a gunshot wound. Ryan Reynolds throws around a loose eyeball. Five performs surgery to extract a bullet from Two in the Giulia’s backseat for the sequence’s duration. The Giulia hits pedestrians in slow motion, and bodies fly when cars blow up. And the pièce de résistance is the chase’s grisly end. The carnage is automotive as well, and cars seem to blow up about once every minute.
During the chase, the camera lingers on a crucifix that hangs from Six’s handbrake. Judging by the nuns who flip the bird at Six after he nearly runs them down, Jesus probably wouldn’t approve of the proceedings. With 6 Underground’s opening chase, Michael Bay breaks unholy world records, like Most Explosions Happening at Once and Car Chase with the Highest Body Count. It’s like a Mission: Impossible chase on PCP—a citywide, operatic, godless demolition derby. In short, it’s what Michael Bay does best.