I was only a few minutes into Netflix’s new action flick “Extraction” and I could already see the markings from several movies that came before it. The main character, the story’s central conceit, even the ending to a degree are elements we’ve seen before. But not every movie needs to shatter the mold especially when making a genre film. Sometimes it’s enough to do what you’re doing well. “Extraction” does what it does well.
The film reunites Chris Hemsworth with Anthony and Joe Russo, the sibling duo known for directing some of the best films from the Marvel Cinematic Universe (“Infinity War”, “Endgame”, and the last two Captain America pictures). Here the brothers serve as producers with the younger brother Joe writing the screenplay. In the director’s chair sits Sam Hargrave who was the stunt coordinator on “Endgame” and “Captain America: Civil War”. So as you as you can see, there are several big budget connections at work on “Extraction”.
Hemsworth plays Tyler Rake (yep, that’s his name), a hard-drinking mercenary who is hired to retrieve and extract the teenaged son of a drug lord. The boy, named Ovi (Rudhraksh Jaiswal), was kidnapped in Mumbai and taken to Dhaka, Bangladesh by a rival gangster named Amir Asaf (Priyanshu Painyuli). From prison Ovi’s father threatens his top henchman Saju (Randeep Hooda) – “You want your son to see his next birthday? Then get mine back.”
Tyler gets the contract from his colleague, Nik Khan (the always enjoyable Golshifteh Farahani). It’s a high-stakes job but nothing a cash-strapped loner with a death wish would pass up on. So Tyler heads to Dhaka and grabs the kid in a thrilling hyper-violent exchange that sets the table for the R-rated carnage to come. Things ratchet up when it becomes clear Ovi’s father doesn’t intend to pay the contract. Instead Saju is in Dhaka to kill Tyler and take the boy. Meanwhile Asaf gets wind that Tyler has Ovi and orders the corrupt local police to lock down the city and hunt them down.
Despite the boy now being expendable Tyler refuses to leave him, promising Ovi he’ll get him out of Dkaka. It’s partly paternal instinct, but mostly a quest for redemption. So with two enemies closing in, Tyler takes Ovi into the heart of the crowded city. It culminates in one of the best action scenes I’ve seen in years – an electrifying 10-minute sequence shot as one continuous take. It starts with a car chase, moves to a shootout, throws in a knife fight before finishing with another car chase. It’s a work of brilliance from Hargrave and his DP Newton Thomas Sigel.
Aside from being exceptionally well-choreographed, the action works because Hargrave shoots it clearly and distinctly. No frantic quick-cuts or headache-inducing shaky cams. It’s allowed to play out in front of the camera instead of being chopped up in the editing room. It’s an applause-worthy choice and a welcomed change from what we often get. The action is also helped by the physicality Hemsworth brings. Neatly shorn and Mjölnir-free, the Aussie fights with a ferocity and grit unlike anything he’s done before.
Performance-wise Hemsworth is limited by a role that mainly asks him to show intensity and brood. It makes sense within the story. He’s a broken and tortured man with bullets whizzing by in nearly ever frame. Thankfully there a couple of scenes where he gets to soften a bit and the script gives us a glimpse inside of his character. Hemsworth sells them well. Outside of the nameless, faceless contributors to the body count (and there are a ton of them), the main antagonist does fare as well. He’s more of a thinly sketched caricature – evil and abhorrent but without an ounce of depth.
But in the movie’s defense, it is very self-aware. It doesn’t want to be character study or a think piece. It’s not interested in commentary or metaphors. Instead “Extraction” is a throwback to the better action movies of the late 80’s to mid-90’s. It’s straightforward, unapologetic and an absolute blast. At the same time, debut director Sam Hargrave pushes his film to be more than just another genre entry. He brings an expertise and enthusiasm that shows itself in every fight, every shootout, and every chase.
VERDICT – 4 STARS