Following the likes of Message From the King, Triple Frontier, and 6 Underground, Extraction is the latest generic Netflix action movie with an A-list lead. This time, it’s Chris Hemsworth, who teamed up with fellow Avengers: Endgame alum Joe Russo and Sam Hargrave. The writing/directing pair traded in the epic scale of the MCU but kept the same level of bombast. Extraction is a propulsive, bone-crunching flick that balances great action scenes with a painfully dull story.
DIRECTOR: Sam Hargrave
After a drug lord’s son is kidnapped, a ruthless mercenary (Chris Hemsworth) is called in to bring him home.
Hemsworth plays Tyler Rake, a man who scores an easy bingo on the Action Hero card. He’s a soldier turned mercenary—and a one-man wrecking crew. Is he a depressed alcoholic with a death wish? Does this stem from past family trauma hinted at in flashbacks? I think that’s bingo right there. Hemsworth dials down the charisma that makes Thor so amusing and helps the actor crush so many supporting roles in other films. Tyler’s a grizzled tough guy whose inner turmoil has stripped him of all personality. He’s the kind of guy who would rather die than crack a smile. The movie is just as solemn as its lead, and that makes both of them a drag.
Tyler’s latest job is to go to India to retrieve Ovi Mahajan (Rudhraksh Jaiswal), the teenage son of drug lord Ovi Mahajan Sr. (Pankaj Tripathi). Between rival street gangs, mercenaries, and other interlopers, Tyler’s straightforward point A to point B mission gets bumpy. But the obstacles don’t complicate the overall story much, and it highlights the script’s relative moral passivity. This is a story about a man grappling with grief by taking dangerous jobs. The kind of jobs that send a white man to a foreign country to mow down scores of brown people. You can’t not notice, especially because Russo’s script doesn’t offer much else to engage with thematically. Extraction is a lean and mean killing machine, nothing more and nothing less.
But Extraction’s secret weapon, and the reason I can’t write the movie off, is Hargrave. After working as a second unit director or stunt coordinator on films like Endgame, Infinity War, and Atomic Blonde, Hargrave makes his directorial debut here. As much as I find the film’s story to be a chore, the opposite is true of the action. Extraction comes alive and finds its raison d’etre when the skull-cracking begins. The action is shot with the clarity and fluidity that every film should strive for. Whether it’s a close-quarters fistfight or a chase through the streets of Dhaka, the choreography work is superb.
For all its flaws, Extraction does have one outstanding sequence that earns the movie a recommendation. In a shot designed to look like it’s done in one take, we get an action sequence that features a car chase, shootouts, a foot chase, fisticuffs, and another car chase. I’m a sucker for the one-take gimmick, even if digital trickery is involved. It’s like the creative team watched 1917 and decided to condense all of the action into a ten-minute stretch. This is must-see stuff for action junkies, and it’ll be among the best action scenes of the year. I’d feel comfortable saying that even in a year with a full slate of releases to compete with. Aside from the visceral thrill, this set piece unleashes the kind of creativity the rest of the film needs.
When the film needs to take a break and let the audience catch its breath, it throttles down in a morass of cliches. Between the generic villains and Tyler’s barely developed personal trauma, the script practically begs viewers to tune out. With this kind of movie, buying into the pathos is a bonus, but not a requirement. For me, it felt like the film was asking for something it wasn’t earning. It borders on manipulative. In a movie with such wanton disregard for human life, it’s hard to care about the guy who rings up the highest body count. If Extraction were a serious movie, this would be a huge problem. But it’s not, so it’s easier to enjoy the movie for the things it does well.
Right now, in this specific moment in time, you could do much worse than Extraction. Hardly a compelling comment, I know. But as mindless entertainment, Extraction is an efficient time killer. That’s a compliment. Two hours where you don’t have to think about anything important? That seems like a godsend. Extraction is pure popcorn: something to snack on until a better option comes around.
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