With no cinematic blockbusters to compete with at the moment due to the COVID-19 lockdown, Netflix has found the release of its big new action film, Extraction, rather fortuitous. The film has dominated Netflix viewership numbers for the past week and is on its way to becoming the biggest debut in the streaming service’s history. And there is a good reason for that because as an action spectacle, Extraction certainly doesn’t disappoint and is bound to leave those who watch it breathless from everything this movie has to offer.
At its core, Extraction is a simple movie. The story follows a former special forces operative turned mercenary for hire Tyler Rake (Chris Hemsworth) who has to lead an effort to rescue the kidnapped son (Rudhraksh Jaiswal) of an imprisoned crime boss from a rival drug lord in Dhaka, Bangladesh, while also being chased down by a former special forces agent (Randeep Hooda) with a similar habit of simply never dying. And that is pretty much it.
However, in this movie, nothing is ever as easy as it sounds and Rake ends up fighting enemy after enemy as every possible criminal, cop, and even budding child soldier around seems out to kill him and his young charge. As a result, unrelenting carnage ensues as Rake fights for his life through the grimy slums and jungles of the South Asian country where crime and poverty has driven many to desperation.
It’s a story that harkens back to the action films of old where it was possible for a one-man army to take down entire gangs all on their own. And while Extraction definitely ticks that old school action box firmly, it brings plenty of modern and fantastically executed action sequences and an intensity that few films on offer right now can match. Yes, it has its dramatic moments and odd breaks from predictability, but this is not a story trying to reinvent the formula.
Hemsworth, despite being one of the big stars of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, hasn’t really gotten an opportunity to truly show his action chops before. He certainly rises up to the occasion here though. The physically towering actor’s ability to run, dive, fight, shoot and drive his way through hordes of enemies would certainly make even John Rambo proud. While Hemsworth’s Rake lacks severely in the offbeat charm of his Thor, he offers somewhere between a hyper-energetic Tom Cruise and a stoic Stallone stand-and-deliver approach, with some slick Keanu Reeves styled John Wick gunplay thrown into the mix as well.
The film does require him to bring a small amount of dramatic acting mettle to the role, with a few subtle moments of quiet introspection, but it really is lightweight. The same goes for the rest of the cast (which includes David Harbour and Golshifteh Farahani) whose characters you never really get to explore more than fleetingly. Instead, it’s Hemsworth mostly running around and performing action feats the entire time. Which is perfectly acceptable for escapist action, and which is all Extraction is aiming for.
That being said, the intensity of the film could become overwhelming. Not only can the non-stop barrage of gruesomely violent action easily drain you, but Rake’s constant death-defying escapes does take away from the gritty realism of some of the action scenes. But they’re done so thrillingly, that you mostly don’t care.
And arguably even more than Hemsworth, the real star of this film is director Sam Hargrave who pulls off all that action. Impressively, Hargrave is making his feature film directing debut here and he has done a fantastic job. His previous work as a stunt coordinator on some major Hollywood productions (he is Chris Evans’ Captain America stunt double and worked on several Marvel productions among others) is clearly evident here as he is able to navigate from one big choreographed sequence to the next with ease. And it’s his ability to craft these tense action beats that make the film what it is.
Though credit must also go to editors Peter B. Ellis and Ruthie Aslan, as well as cinematographer Newton Thomas Sigel, for keeping the complexity of these scenes flowing as well as they do. And again to Hargrave as well who did some daredevil camerawork himself on this production. We have already seen this in a behind the scenes view of an epic 12 minute “single-take” chase scene that significantly bumps up the middle of the film. The scene is not a true single-take, as it’s actually a bunch of smaller scenes stitched together digitally, but it is exceptionally well done and way more exciting to watch than any of these hyper-edited action sequences which are so popular in films nowadays. Not every scene in the film is pulled off perfectly (most notably, the film’s lower CGI budget rears its head a few time), but few current films can match the level of execution when it gets it right.
So yes, Extraction has its flaws. Its story, written by Avengers: Endgame co-helmer Joe Russo (who also co-produces alongside his brother, Anthony) doesn’t take full advantage of the grim setting and a lack of engaging characters certainly removes you from what is actually quite a harrowing backdrop. Hemsworth’s Rake is an intriguing and tragic character and he has some solid chemistry with his young charge, but it’s not explored that much. Similarly, there are some great moments between Hemsworth and Harbour, but they’re fleeting.
This all matters little though when your senses are being constantly slammed with outstanding, breathtaking action sequences. And that’s all Extraction is really trying to do (and sometimes that’s all we’re looking for in a movie). By keeping it straightforward – its action is far too technically accomplished for me to say “simple” – and not trying to punch above its weight, it ends up working really well. And you will be thrilled every minute of it.
Last Updated: May 5, 2020