'Extraction': Film Review

Red meat for action fans, but don't go looking for nuance.
4/24/2020

Chris Hemsworth plays a mercenary attempting to rescue a kidnapped teenager in Sam Hargrave's Netflix action thriller scripted by Marvel veteran Joe Russo.

Action movie fans needn't worry that Netflix's Chris Hemsworth-starring vehicle Extraction wastes much time on such niceties as character development. When first seen, his character is nursing a hangover while lying outside with a couple buddies. To clear his head, he makes a death-defying leap off a cliff and then calmly meditates for a few minutes at the bottom of a lake. That pretty much tells you all you need to know about Australian mercenary Tyler Rake — yes, that's his name — other than that he's clearly struggling with private grief and numbs his physical and emotional pain with copious amounts of OxyContin. Oh, and that he eventually kills somebody with, you guessed it, a rake.

While the characters played by such previous action stars as Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger would have had a clever quip to accompany that moment, the strong and silent Tyler Rake lets it pass without comment. It's indicative of the tedious solemnity of the screenplay written by Joe Russo (co-director, with his brother Anthony, of such Marvel hits as Captain America: Civil War and the last two Avengers movies), based on his own graphic novel, that seems determined to make the proceedings as dramatically turgid as they are physically frenetic.

Rake gets called into service to rescue Ovi (Rudhraksh Jaiswal), the kidnapped 14-year-old son of an imprisoned Indian drug kingpin. The boy has been snatched by his father's Bangladeshi rival, Amir (Priyanshu Painyuli), who is as sadistic as he is elegantly clothed and coiffed. Amir is the sort of villain who not only kidnaps one child, but orders another one thrown off a roof and instructs one of his henchmen to cut off two of his own fingers. Because one finger, apparently, isn't enough.

Talented mercenary that he is, Tyler manages to extract Ovi from his kidnappers in just a few minutes of screen time without breaking a sweat, although not without slaughtering multiple bad guys in the process. Unfortunately, he then has to somehow get the boy to safety even as Amir orders the military official he has in his pocket to "close the city."

Cue the relentlessly graphic and bloodily violent mayhem, staged with undeniable proficiency by Sam Hargrave, another Marvel veteran, here making his feature directorial debut. Hargrave has more than a little experience with this sort of thing, having been a stuntman, stunt coordinator and second-unit director on several Avengers films. It serves him well here, since the vast majority of the film's running time is consumed by shootouts, hand-to-hand fights, explosions and, in one particularly bravura segment, a chase conducted with cars, trucks and on foot. The filmmaker also indulges in the current fad for single-take sequences, or at least the appearance of single takes, although by now the stylistic device is beginning to wear a bit thin.

Speaking of wearing thin, the same can be said of the action. Despite the undeniable virtuosity on display, it features little of the kinetic wit or humor of, say, the John Wick films, ultimately becoming numb with its nonstop video game aesthetic. It doesn't help that Hemsworth, for all his formidable muscular physicality, is given little to no opportunity to showcase his charisma. The actor has displayed a surprising comic flair on numerous occasions, but his glum, glowering performance here leaves a central void. About halfway through the film, David Harbour (Stranger Things) makes a brief appearance as an old buddy of Tyler's who urges him to abandon his efforts to protect his young charge because of the impossible odds against him. "The kid is a walking corpse," he advises, and for a few brief moments, there's a real personality onscreen.

Extraction seems fortunately timed for its streaming rollout, since it could momentarily satisfy the sort of pent-up demand for elaborate action fare of which audiences are currently being deprived on the big screen. But much like such similarly styled, high-octane Netflix efforts as 6 Underground and Spenser Confidential, it feels a bit like slumming for its movie star leading man.  

Production companies: AGBO, India Take One Productions, T.G.I.M. Films, Thematic Entertainment
Distributor: Netflix
Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Golshifteh Farahani, David Harbour, Rudhraksh Jaiswal, Priyanshu Painyuli, Randeep Hooda, Pankaj Tripathi
Director: Sam Hargrave
Screenwriter: Joe Russo
Producers: Eric Gitter, Chris Hemsworth, Mike Larocca, Anthony Russo, Joe Russo, Peter Schwerin
Executive producers: Ari Costa, Benjamin Grayson, Patrick Newall, Steven V. Scavelli
Director of photography: Newton Thomas Sigel
Production designer: Philip Ivey

Costume designer: Bojana Nikitovic
Editors: Ruthie Aslan, Peter B. Ellis
Composers: Alex Belcher, Henry Jackman
Casting: Sarah Finn

Rated R, 116 minutes