Director: Sam Hargrave
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Rudhraksh Jaiswal, Randeep Hooda, Golshifteh Farahani, Priyanshu Painyuli, David Harbour
With the exception of prestige productions like Roma and The Irishman, original movies from streaming companies have tended to be viewed as the contemporary equivalent of the old straight-to-video release. But with the world’s cinemas forced the close their doors by Covid-19 and Hollywood holding back their big budget releases in the hope of being able to recoup some of their investment down the track, Netflix, Amazon and the like find themselves the only show in town. The result is that a film like Extraction, a generic actioner which sees former Marvel stunt coordinator and second unit director Sam Hargrave making his directorial debut, ends up with more eyes on it than it might have otherwise anticipated.
Super-skilled mercenary Tyler Rake (Chris Hemsworth) is approached at his isolated Kakadu home with a lucrative but dangerous extraction job. Ovi Maherian (Rudhraksh Jaiswal), the young son of a Mumbai drug lord, has been kidnapped by one of his father’s chief rivals, Amir Asif (Priyanshu Painyuli), and smuggled to Dhaka. So Rake and his support team head to Bangladesh, and while getting their hands on the boy proves quite straight forward, getting him out of a city that is all but run by Asif is another matter entirely.
Chris Hemsworth is at an interesting point in his career. The Marvel Cinematic Universe has made him a bona fide star, but he is yet to have a genuine hit in which he is playing the lead outside of Thor. He’s shown dramatic chops in Rush, comedic timing in Ghostbusters and is obviously built like an action hero, but what life after Thor is going to look like for Hemsworth is not yet clear. Hopefully it doesn’t look too much like Tyler Rake, as the role engages only a fraction of Hemsworth’s natural charisma. While Hemsworth remains very watchable, and actually gets to play an Australian, Rake is a thinly drawn and entirely humourless action hero. The screenplay by Joe Russo, one of Hemsworth’s co-directors on the last two Avengers films, makes an attempt to try and flesh him out into something more than a throwback to 1980s action beefcakes. However, this portrait of a tortured man who willingly takes high risk missions because he ultimately doesn’t value his own life feels a little cliched.
As you would expect from the background of its director, it is the action sequences that are the film’s strongest suit. The fight scenes are well choreographed, providing a handful of noteworthy moments – including one in which Tyler Rake kills someone with a rake (get it?). Rather than the more aestheticised fight choreography of a John Wick, Extraction is simply callous and brutal in the way it dispatches its numerous faceless bad guys. The centrepiece of the film is an extended faux-single shot sequence which starts as a car chase before transitioning to a foot chase and fight scene that moves through apartment buildings and over roofs. While possibly gimmicky, it is none the less impressively executed.
While the dynamic of having our hero dropped into a conflict between two drug lords creates a sometimes interesting scenario in which there is no clear good vs evil, in reality the narrative here is largely perfunctory, serving as a skeleton on which to hang these action sequences. There is some minor novelty in having it set in Bangladesh when Hollywood might ordinarily have defaulted to South America for its drug lord rivalries (indeed, the graphic novel on which the film was based was set in Paraguay), though we don’t really see a great deal of cultural specificity coming out of the setting. What is interesting, though, is the role of children within the drama. In addition to the kidnapped Ovi, we see numerous kids and young teens caught up in the conflict, often as gang members. In this world of baddies against baddies, it is the way characters treat children that becomes somewhat of a moral barometer. It also allows for an amusing action sequence where Rake reluctantly has to fight a group of child gang members and is clearly doing the bare minimum requried to incapacitate them without unnecessarily harming anyone.
Is Extraction a glimpse into what the Chris Hemsworth’s post-Thor career might look like? Hopefully not. He has significantly more to offer, particularly comedically, than he gets to show here. That said, Extraction is what it is. This is not a film which harbours ambitions of redefining the genre in anyway. It is a straight up and down action thriller and at a time when we could all use a bit of dumb escapism, it does enough to scratch that action movie itch while you patiently await the return of the big blockbusters.
Review by Duncan McLean
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