Extraction

Release: Friday, April 24, 2020 (Netflix)

→Netflix

Written by: Joe Russo 

Directed by: Sam Hargrave 

The more cynical takeaway here is that Extraction exists for no other purpose than to prove that the three — er, make it four — Marvel Cinematic Universe alums who have made it possible are capable of more hard-hitting, violent movies. The marketing seemed pretty simple: Here’s another Avenger unleashed in an R-rated movie. Chris Evans got The Red Sea Diving Resort; Chris Hemsworth gets Extraction. (On that note, who the heck is Robert Downey Jr.’s agent?)

As if to one-up his own brooding performances in Thor: The Dark World and the opening stanza of Avengers: Endgame, the hulking Australian goes from being superheroic to super-sullen in this straightforward and straight-up bloody action thriller directed by stunt coordinator extraordinaire Sam Hargrave. In his directorial début he is joined by his buddies Joe and Anthony Russo — the fraternal duo behind some of Marvel’s biggest chapters. The former writes the script and serves as a producer alongside his brother. That pedigree of talent in front of and behind the camera ensured Extraction won the popularity contest with housebound audiences earlier this year, becoming the most-streamed title in Netflix’s catalogue of originals.*

To be more charitable — and more honest — Extraction is a throwback to gritty, ultra-masculine action cinema of the past, a one-note drama that knows its boundaries and doesn’t try to cross them. It isn’t gunning for any awards, but if you’re looking for a way to get your adrenaline pumping, this fast-paced adventure of bone-crunching action should do the trick. Based on the graphic novel Ciudad, the movie pits Hemsworth’s black ops mercenary Tyler Rake against multiple waves of bad guys crawling the cramped streets of Dhaka, Bangladesh. His mission is to rescue Ovi (Rudhraksh Jaiswal), the teenaged son of a drug lord, from a rivaling kingpin. He’s reluctantly sent in by fellow merc Nik Khan (Golshifteh Farahani), along with a support team who are here mostly to help fill the movie’s dead body quota.

What should have been a simple in-and-out turns into basically a suicide mission as the sadistic and well-connected Amir Asif (Priyanshu Painyuli) gets wind of the rescue attempt and puts the city on lockdown, sending reinforcements to all possible exit points. Meanwhile, Ovi’s guardian Saju Rav (Randeep Hooda) is highly motivated to retrieve the boy himself, with his family being threatened by an incarcerated Ovi Sr. Prison walls don’t make this man any less dangerous when there is this much pride at stake. Saju puts his years as a special forces op to good use, muscling through any and all objects standing in his path and leading us to the expected confrontation with Mr. Rake himself.

The cat-and-mouse game that ensues is more technically impressive than it is emotionally involving. While we get some insight into what drives this brooding badass into such dangerous situations, it’s really just window dressing to the carnage that unfolds in the present tense. If you squint you can see a bond beginning to form between Rake and the blank canvas of a schoolboy in his ward (in fairness to the young actor, he just isn’t given enough to do other than look scared). Joe Russo squeezes the orange hard, until some droplets of juicy redemption emerge finally for Rake, a man clearly being consumed inside by pain from a traumatic past.

The editing team paces the story pretty breathlessly, leaving you with as little time to think as its characters, which can only be a good thing when you have a protagonist this immune to dying. The marquee scene, a protracted mid-movie battle between Hemsworth and Hooda that incorporates car chases, falls from rooftops and hand-to-hand combat, proves why Hargrave is one of the best in the business when it comes to building up an action sequence that remains not just white-knuckle but also coherent. The final showdown on a bridge is also quite memorable, with bullets flying everywhere and vehicles set ablaze as all characters converge on the targets.

Unfortunately it is the epilogue that proves to be the movie’s biggest misstep. For the most part Hargrave assembles a lean, mean and self-contained story but when it comes to finishing things off, he becomes weirdly non-committal. As it turns out, he isn’t nearly as ruthless as his leading man. Still though, lack of character development and emotional depth notwithstanding, Extraction gets the job done in brutal and stylish fashion.

* the game has changed. Netflix’s metric now considers two minutes sufficient time for a person to have ‘viewed’ something. it used to be you had to watch something like 75% of a movie or a single episode for that to be counted as a view. 

Drowning in despair

Recommendation: I haven’t mentioned anything in my review about Extraction‘s reliance upon the white savior trope, and that’s because I’m not entirely sure it’s problematic. This movie has some undeniably ugly moments (child soldiers, for example) and yes, it is clearly a vehicle for star Chris Hemsworth, but in my view it is Randeep Hooda’s complicated family man who is the movie’s most interesting character. Story-wise and thematically this is pretty basic stuff but it certainly succeeds in its capacity as an ultra-masculine action thriller.  

Rated: R

Running Time: 103 mins.

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Photo credits: Netflix

9 thoughts on “Extraction

    • On the technical front Extraction is probably going to be dissected by stunt coordinators and aspiring ones , maybe not on the level that Fury Road has and will continue to but yeah the action here is so well done and damn gnarly!

      It’s definitely better for that than it is for interesting characters. I liked Hemsworth but it was actually Randeep Hooda’s family man who was probably as compelling as they got for me. (And he was definitely good!)

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  1. I have seen it promoted but haven’t seen it yet. I like Chris and your review focuses on the family relationship–that’s what I like, showing the humanity of the usual violence and explosions. I think I will watch it. Nice review, as usual, Tom.

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    • Appreciate the kind words Cindy. Nice to see you back here! I hope all is going well for you re: teaching and class schedules. You’re one of the unsung heroes of this year!

      Extraction definitely is shallow, but it’s enjoyable.

      By the way I attempted to leave a comment on your review of Tenet but it kept getting deleted? Perhaps that’s because I used some rather choice language in my reaction to the link that was shared to a review from pro “critic” Peter Bradshaw, whose opening comments made me so mad I almost became physically ill.

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  2. Agree with this — it’s not a clever movie, but it’s solid entertainment as an old-school actioner. I thought the ambiguous final shot was both very predictable and neatly done (as far as something so predictable goes), but it looks like the ambiguity will be done away with as I believe they’re planning a sequel.

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    • Yeah to me that ending ruins a nicely self-contained story. I really tip-toed around spoilers at the end but I’m sure it’s obvious enough what I’m saying. I’m really tired of everything having to be contrived into a franchise. It’s really unnecessary here, to the point where it undermines the movie’s themes. Selfless sacrifice and all that jazz

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    • That comment really makes my day, Fraggle. 😀 Thanks so much. I’ve just found your Other Place, and am anxious to read your thoughts on it too. Along with a lot of other things. Jesus, you have four blogs! How do you do that??

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      • Haha no just 3, the blog for my film photography is quite sporadic, I don’t get my rolls evelped very quickly so that just sits there most of the time, the Other place gets one post a week on a Monday for my movie reviews and the Rocking blog once a week on a Sunday for my digital photo work, so it’s not too onerus 🙂 Thanks Tom.

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