“You drown, not by falling into the river, but by staying submerged in it.”
*This review may contain spoilers*
Extraction is a Netflix original action film directed by newcomer Sam Hargrave, produced by Joe & Anthony Russo (Infinity War, Endgame) and stars Chris Hemsworth (Thor, Rush), Randeep Hooda (Once Upon a Time in Mumbaai, Saheb, Biwi Aur Gangster) and Golshifteh Farahani (The Patience Stone, About Elly). When a prominent crime lord’s son is held for ransom by Bangladesh’s biggest drug lord, a black-market mercenary named Tyler Rake (Hemsworth) is recruited to rescue the boy and bring him back home to India.
With a movie like Extraction, you pretty much know what you’re in for before you click play. However, contrary to many of its straight to Netflix predecessors, Extraction threw some big names behind the project which gave it automatic appeal to those fans looking beneath the surface. With Hemsworth in the lead, the film had a ready-made action hero that viewers can get behind instantly and the character finally allows Hemsworth to wield his native Australian accent, which was a long time coming and it is glorious! The screenplay was written by Joe Russo and the film was produced by both Russo brothers, which allured me with a sense of storytelling competence that many action films today lack. Being the directorial debut of stuntman Sam Hargrave (who has previously worked on many of the MCU movies), there are many similarities that can be drawn between this and John Wick, which we owe thanks to for being the film that forced action movies like Extraction to raise their game in both style and choreography. While Extraction delivers two fold on the action you would expect from such a crew, it lacks significantly in character and story which doesn’t take away from the overall enjoyment film, but does hold it back from reaching the heights to rival its competitor John Wick.
The action in this movie is the standout feature, delivering technically proficient, brutal and well-choreographed scenes that had me exclaiming out loud with my hand covering my mouth every time Hemsworth threw an enemy through a wall or punched someone so hard that they flew across the room. The use of environments and props are creatively designed and sees our hero using everything at his disposal to demonstrate his effectiveness as the action star of this movie, which reminded me of some of the best Asian mixed martial arts movies, most notably The Raid. A great shot of Tyler Rake violently dispatching enemies using a rake was a fun throw in and gave a good laugh, despite the horrible things that were happening on screen. There is one exceptional sequence in particular, which saw our director physically strap himself to a moving vehicle to shoot a 12 minute one-take action scene, which is absolutely bonkers and feels like a big pay off half way through the film, given the little excitement that comes before it. Hemsworth did many of the stunts himself and ideas were thrown in on the fly, depending on his capabilities and size compared to the other stuntmen, which gave some reality to Rake’s ridiculous skills as a mercenary. It is really refreshing to see an action hero that takes somewhat realistic damage, with injuries affecting the way he deals with situations later in the film. Like the original Die Hard, our hero is physically torn apart with each fight, which elevates the tension as Rake doesn’t feel like an 80’s Schwarzenegger-esque god that can’t be stopped.
The film suffers in the same areas as most one-off action movies, with severely underdeveloped characters, a striking but underutilised villain and off-the-shelf backstories for almost every prominent character. There isn’t anything detrimental about Rake’s mournful past, as it ties in well with his motives and relationship with the target Ovi, but it is an identity that has been bled dry in Hollywood, something that adds to the “been there, done that” feeling underpinning a lot of the movie. We get very little characterisation from Ovi, except that he plays piano when he is nervous, but he is well acted by Jaiswal during the sensitive dialogue scenes and holds a touching relationship with Rake that takes some time culminating into something worth caring for. Out of all the characters, one stood out for me as being both well-constructed and well-acted, which was Saju played by Randeep Hooda. His motivations were relatable, despite his mixed ethical standing, as he played off Hemsworth’s character well as an equally skilled henchman which I found myself caring more for during most of the film than our lead hero. Our villain is Amir Asif, introduced with a shocking interrogation scene that instantly demands the viewers’ attention, with actor Painyuli holding the tension in every scene he steals. Unfortunately, he is severely wasted as a character that has little to no direct impact in his evil plan, but instead orders his army of goons to do literally everything for him, which doesn’t quite give us the emotional pay off viewers are looking for in the end.
The plot calms at intervals to deliver much needed narrative and there is a great cameo by David Harbour that kept me invested during the down time. There is a twist during the second act that could be seen from a mile away, but it isn’t contrived and develops in taste, fitting well within each character’s current situation. One point worth noting is that critics have been vocal on this film’s excessive violence, which is ridiculous as you do not go into a 15 age-rated movie like Extraction expecting it to be Indiana Jones! The violence serves the plot and there are far more shocking movies available with the same rating, but it was obviously jarring for some viewers so it may not be the right watch for more casual audiences- maybe don’t watch this with your Grandparents!
When you take Extraction in-genre, the negatives are minimal compared to the skill behind the pulse-pounding action sequences and the creative ways in which they are shot. For a directorial debut, Extraction displays a deep understanding of the genre by Hargrave and is a fantastic launch pad to a career that should be followed. The story and characters may have been deprived, but the acting, dialogue and technicalities are solid, producing a film that feels just a cut above the basic action flick. The enjoyment you get from Extraction will all come down to your expectations: action buffs will love it and those who require intricate plots, themes and characters may not. I give Extraction a 7/10!
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