Turkmenistan and its authoritarian leader Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov seem to have inspired the production of a big-budget American movie.
The $150 million Underground 6 focuses on the story of a U.S. tech billionaire who wants to bring democracy to the fictional country of Turgistan by taking down its evil dictator.
The action-packed thriller, released by streaming giant Netflix on December 13, appears to be inspired by the Central Asian nation of Turkmenistan and its real-life despot, Berdymukhammedov.
State symbols of the fictional Turgistan bear a striking resemblance to those of Turkmenistan, while residents of Turgistan seem to speak Turkmen and also bear Turkmen names.
The unnamed billionaire, played by Hollywood star actor Ryan Reynolds, plots a coup to topple the Turgistan strongman, President Rovach Alimov, and install the president’s jailed brother, Murat, as the “country’s” new leader.
To implement his plan the billionaire, who calls himself One, recruits five people: a spy, a hit man, a thief, a doctor, and a driver who all then use the pseudonyms Two, Three, Four, Five, and Six, respectively.
Six eventually gets killed and One hires a former sniper of an elite special operation force — who he names Seven.
After a series of events, the team hacks into Turgistan’s state TV channel during an address by the president and instead broadcasts a speech by Murat.
Murat’s speech inspires people to rise up against the president.
As the dictator tries to flee, his yacht comes under attack. The movie includes multiple violent scenes of chase scenes, fighting, and explosions.
Directed by Michael Bay, the movie was filmed in Hungary, Italy, the United Arab Emirates, and the United States.
Turkmenistan’s residents will not be able to watch 6 Underground anytime soon as Netflix is blocked in the secretive country, where the government severely restricts people’s freedom and access to information.
The government has also banned international social media sites and major Western-based, independent news sites.
There are even more similarities between the fictional Turgistan and Berdymukhammedov’s Turkmenistan.
Both are repressive states run by unpopular dictators and, in fact, the Turgistan leader’s first name — Rovach — is the same as the favorite stallion of the equine-mad Berdymukhammedov.
One of Berdymukhammedov’s latest songs, Rovach, was dedicated to his horse and broadcast on state TV in April.
Just like Ashgabat, Turgistan’s capital Tyrus seems to be dotted with large monuments of its leaders and heroes. And both countries call their national currency the manat.
But that seems to be where the similarities end.
Despite being in the midst of its worst economic situation since gaining independence in 1991, there does not seem to be any sign of an imminent revolt in Turkmenistan. That is largely due to the fact that Berdymukhammedov and his predecessor, Saparmurat Niyazov, brutally suppressed their political opposition, imprisoning opponents and forcing critics into self-exile abroad.