Extraction is a textbook action flick. If you’re not down for wild shootouts, explosions, and car chases, then beat it because this movie doesn’t give a damn about you. Stunt coordinator turned director, Sam Hargrave, jam-packs Extraction with exhilarating action sequences, but his debut feature still falls short in a few crucial ways. If a gritty comic book adaptation (written and produced by MCU all-star Joe Russo) sounds like your thing, buckle up for an intense action-thriller.
Extraction begins at the end of the story as the camera soars high above the city of Dhaka, revealing a vast maze of low-rise apartments and tin-roofed slums. Building after building after building stretch on for miles, before fading off in the distance beneath a haze of thick red smog.
The camera swoops down low to a battle in progress and introduces us to the story’s hero (?), Australian mercenary, Tyler Rake (Chris Hemsworth). We know right away that this man is no superhero. We find Tyler battered, bloody, and barely clinging to life. And still, he’s mowing down bad guys with guns faster than the world’s greatest Fortnite player. Just as the action comes to a head, the film jumps back in time to reveal how Tyler found himself in such a hot mess.
It’s here when we meet 14-year-old Ovi (Rudhraksh Jaiswal), a good-natured rich kid from Mumbai who seems to have it all. Even though he has a chauffeur, an iPhone, and nice clothes, you get the sense he would trade it all for a father who shows him love. In one early scene, we find Ovi sitting alone in a dark room, head bowed as he plays the world’s saddest song on his piano. And it’s soon clear why. His dad, Ovi Sr. (Pankaj Tripathi), is a bigtime drug dealer who is locked away behind bars.
Trouble pops off when Ovi Sr.’s enemy, Amir Asif (Priyanshu Painyuli), Dhaka’s very own Pablo Escobar, sets out to humiliate his enemy by kidnapping Ovi jr. and bringing him back to Dhaka. The kidnapping sparks a blood feud between India’s biggest drug lord and the biggest drug lord in Bangladesh. Amir owns every cop and crook in Dhaka, and rescuing young Ovi from the city is a suicide mission.
Queue Tyler Rake.
The second time we meet Tyler, he’s out drinking beers with his bros and proving that he gives no fucks about his own well-being. Shuffling around like a hungover caribou, Tyler steps over the edge of a cliff, plunges into the lake below, and then sits on the bottom meditating as though he’s in an LA yoga studio.
Nothing is said, but the moment speaks volumes. This man is running from a lifetime of pain, violence, and heartache. The sweet serenity at the bottom of the lake only provides a moment of relief. Tyler’s bones have broken and mended many times over, but what this mercenary needs most is something to heal his soul.
It’s a testament to Hemsworth’s acting chops (and Hargrave’s solid directing) that we understand Tyler even before we see his tortured flashbacks. You knew there would be tortured flashbacks, right? We instantly know he has lost something precious, and that a piece of his soul died along with it. Tyler wouldn’t put a gun to his head and pull the trigger, but if a truck jumped the curb and came barreling at him, he wouldn’t step out of the way.
Tyler Rake is a one-man suicide squad, and the only mercenary in the world brave (or reckless) enough to accept Ovi’s rescue mission. He’s promised a ridiculous sum of cash to sneak into Dhaka, retrieve Ovi, and return him to Mumbai.
Here’s a minor spoiler: Tyler gets he kid back in Extraction’s first 25-minutes. Taking down 20 of Ovi’s heavily armed captors is the easy part. The kid may be rescued, but he isn’t saved. Asif locks down all the bridges and trains leading out of the city. And that wouldn’t be a problem if Tyler’s exit strategy doesn’t fall apart. But what kind of movie would this be if things went smoothly? Now, trapped in Dhaka with every gangster, thug, and crooked cop hot on his heels, Tyler must keep Ovi alive while he figures out a new extraction plan on the fly.
Hargrave has the makings of a damn fine action movie director. Extraction’s action sequences are the best thing this movie has going for it. There are plenty of bigtime action movie franchises with lousy fight scenes. Hargrave doesn’t resort to that lazy fast-cutting, shaky-cam bullshit too many directors rely on these days. The near-unwatchable mashup of shots guys like Peter Berg and Olivier Megaton call action are prime examples. You can tell lots of planning went into choreographing the action in this movie. And even though the fights feel frantic, they’re easy to follow, and you don’t lose track of what’s happening.
The shootouts and fistfights are brutal, intense, and always lethal. Tyler is the type of action hero that leaves a massive body count in his wake. It’s fun to watch him go to town on bad guys too. Tyler fights like a buff John Wick – let’s call him John Thick. The masterful action choreography is flashy, inventive, and lightning-fast. Tyler often drops several bad guys in the time it takes to glance at Twitter.
Extraction is ultra-violent, and Tyler Rake is an ultra-badass, so things do get bloody. He takes down fools in the most efficient, or the most gruesome way imaginable. Tyler’s punches and kicks pound on his foes with the force of jackhammers. Making matters worse, he’s willing to use any tool available to face a threat. The guy kills people with a rake, a pitchfork, a table, a coffee mug, and most impressively, a suplex.
Extraction features an electrifying car chase unlike anything I’ve ever seen. Hargrave and his cinematographer, Newton Thomas Sigel, must have taken a few years off their lives, planning and executing the furious sequence. They shoot the chase to look like one long, uninterrupted take, and it’s as frantic and harrowing as anything you’ll see in a movie.
The camera chases after Tyler and Ovi as they jump in a getaway car and tear through Dhaka’s claustrophobic streets. Before long, the camera swoops around and plants itself inside their ride, giving us a front-row seat to the highspeed chaos. It looks like a moment straight out of Grand Theft Auto, minus the murdered pedestrians.
Cops chase Tyler and Ovi down tight alleys while cars crash into obstacles and flip through the air. And sudden roadblocks keep popping up to prevent a clean getaway. The sequence is a cacophony of gunshots, roaring engines, and screeching tires, elevated by Alex Belcher and Henry Jackman’s pulse-pounding score.
For a few moments, at least, you feel like you’re in the car being chased. My only complaint is that I never had a chance to experience this mayhem on a proper movie screen. The car-chase scene alone is worth the price of admission… ahem. Worth the price of Netflix’s monthly subscription fee.
Hargrave has put together two-thirds of a great movie. Most of what you want is there: a star performance, a solid premise, great action, high production values, ambitious stunt work. But where this picture fails is on the page. The script underserves Tyler and Ovi’s relationship. This movie plays out like John Wick if you cut out the opening 20-minutes. You know, all the sentimental stuff dealing with John’s dead wife and murdered puppy. Although this movie aims to hit you with the feels, it comes up short.
The problem is that Tyler rampages through the movie like a lone wolf. He rarely gets to interact with someone else for more than a few scenes. The film doesn’t grant its cast the time and space for relationships to develop. While these generic characters show smidges of personality, they have zero chemistry.
Extraction is an enjoyable all-around action flick. And I get what this movie wants to say. Despite its suicidal lead character, the extreme violence, and scorching colour palette, the message is uplifting. This is, after all, a comeback story. Even if you’re not a mercenary with blood on your hands, the film’s core themes are relatable.
For some of us, our sense of worth and ability to love and feel loved goes dark, like someone switched off a pilot light. Tyler’s arc reminds us that even when overtaken by so much darkness it feels like you’re drowning, you’re never too far gone. Though we refuse to believe it at times, we can always find a way back to the light. This is a story about rekindling a sense of purpose, of finding something to live for, and ultimately, redemption.
But again, this is what the film wants to convey; it doesn’t do a great job making its point. Tony Scott’s Man on Fire and James Mangold’s Logan both explore these same themes to greater effect. They’re each gripping action thrillers featuring memorable characters, and powerful endings that move viewers to tears. This film only nails about two-thirds of Logan and Man on Fire’s perfect formulas.
Extraction has the look and swagger of higher calibre action-thrillers but lacks their soul. Is the film worth a watch? Sure. Especially if you’re an action movie junkie. Just don’t go bumping Extraction up to the front of your Netflix backlog. It’s not made to live up to that amount of hype.