Chris Hemsworth as Tyler Rake
Directed by Sam Hargrave
A black-market mercenary who has nothing to lose is hired to rescue the kidnapped son of an imprisoned international crime lord. But in the murky underworld of weapons dealers and drug traffickers, an already deadly mission approaches the impossible.
I love a great action flick, and Extraction certainly reaches the high bar I’ve come to expect from the genre in the wake of John Wick and the recent batch of Mission: Impossible flicks. Charismatic lead? Check. Explosive action? Check. Awesome stunts? Check. Ridiculous situations? Check. Check. None of it is remotely realistic, but who cares when the results are this good?
Directed by former stunt coordinator Sam Hargrave, who makes his debut behind the camera here, Extraction operates as an old school testosterone-fueled action fest reminiscent of those Chuck Norris/Steven Segal/Arnold Schwarzenegger pics from decades past — think Missing in Action meets Hard to Kill meets Commando, except with the technical prowess of a John Wick film and the brains of Con Air. I mean that as a compliment. One might even compare it to Tony Scott’s brilliant Man On Fire, another film that saw a broken man succumb to violence in order to protect a young child.
I’ve mentioned John Wick twice, and for good reason. The fight choreography and gunplay used in Extraction are very reminiscent of the gun-fu realized by Keanu’s hard-ass assassin. Except, star Chris Hemsworth goes for a gritty rough ‘n tumble approach that owes more to a Rock’em Sock’em Robot than ninja warrior, if you catch my drift. The Marvel star uses his 6-foot-3 frame to great effect, laying waste to (by my count) over a thousand bad guys with the concise precision of a video game avatar.
And that’s exactly what Extraction, for better or worse, evokes: a live-action video game. Hemsworth as Tyler Rake uses pistols, machine guns, shotguns, cars, trucks, and rakes to combat legions upon legions of masked infantry who turn up in droves to die in mass by headshot — Tyler always aims for the head. Would the film work just as well if you cut the casualty rate by half? Probably. But then you’re missing out on half the fun.
Look, no one watches these kinds of flicks for story, character; or to take notes on how to plausibly combat a room full of enemy soldiers using nothing but a can of fruit. I want action, mayhem and a central hero to root for. Extraction delivers on those expectations, and actually goes farther than it has to by taking the time to develop Tyler’s relationship with Ovi (Rudhraksh Jaiswal), the young boy he’s contracted to protect. Amidst the countless bodies and gallons of blood spilt, their relationship forms the heart of the movie and serves as a nice humanistic counter to the gruesome action.
I’ve long championed Hemsworth as an outright star that Hollywood needs to utilize more appropriately. Aside from his terrific turn in Ron Howard’s vastly under-appreciated Rush, the actor has landed a number of so-so would-be tentpoles — Snow White & the Huntsman, Ghostbusters, and Men in Black: International, for example — none of which take full advantage of his acting capabilities. Extraction presents an action hero for Hemsworth to hang his hat on, so to speak. And while Tyler could stand to use a bit more padding in terms of dimension, and perhaps a smidgeon of Thor-ish charisma, Hemsworth does a fine job creating a modern action hero we can all stand behind; or, at the very least, empathize with. In short: I want more Tyler Rake.
Of the remaining batch of supporting players (that also includes a surprise appearance from David Harbour), Randeep Hooda makes the strongest impression as a man forced to undertake a very difficult task. I won’t reveal too much here for the sake of spoilers, suffice to say credit must be given to Joe Russo for crafting a screenplay that takes the time to flesh out its main characters.
And, of course, props to Hargrave and his team for the terrific action sequences. One, in particular, takes place midway through the film and is seemingly shot in one long extended take. The camera follows Tyler and Ovi as they jump in and out of cars, dodge bullets, engage in fistfights and tumble over rooftops in a remarkably exciting bit of cinema that alone is worth the price of admission. Or, in this case, a Netflix subscription.
What Didn’t Work:
For all its technical accomplishments and fine character work, Extraction remains a fairly predictable and rudimentary action thriller in terms of story. Audiences will likely guess the twists before they happen and should have a good idea which direction the film is headed fairly early on.
Again, plot in these types of films always takes a back seat to the action, but the script features an abundance of unique ideas that deserved more exploration. You see, Ovi is the son of an imprisoned drug cartel. So, no matter what transpires over the course of the film, his outcome remains bleak. We get a few brief glimpses into Ovi’s mind, but the film never pauses long enough to truly give his character or his character’s situation the attention it deserves.
Another issue is the aforementioned casualty rate. While I enjoy a healthy dose of death and destruction, I balked at the absurd death count, which includes a number of young children. Late in the film, I started pondering whether everyone involved, including the massive, endless batch of military personnel, should focus all their efforts on killing the horrible, child-murdering drug lord who seemingly runs the country rather than sacrifice more men in pursuit of an invulnerable solider and his young companion. Of course, all action films feature faceless villains whose job requires them to die unceremoniously in combat. At some point, though, it all becomes a bit … tired.
Sometimes you really can have too much of a good thing.
The Bottom Line:
Extraction, while predictable and a tad overcooked, succeeds as a rousing action flick thanks to incredible set pieces and a strong performance from Chris Hemsworth. Sit back and enjoy the mayhem!