Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Golshifteh Farahani, Randeep Hooda & Rudhraksh Jaiswal
Directed by: Sam Hargrave
Distributed by: Netflix
Release Date: April 2020
Running Time: 116 minutes
Synopsis: In an underworld of weapons dealers and traffickers, a young boy becomes the pawn in a war between notorious drug lords. Trapped by kidnappers inside one of the world’s most impenetrable cities, his rescue beckons the unparalleled skill of a mercenary named Tyler Rake, but Rake is a broken man with nothing to lose, harbouring a death wish that makes an already deadly mission near impossible.
Extraction is quite unlike any movie I have ever seen. While the plot has echoes of Rush Hour, 16 Blocks and The Departed, it is the action sequences that really set the movie apart from anything else out there. One extended chase through the apartments and streets of Bangladesh is utterly breath-taking in both its beauty and the intensity of the violence. Director Sam Hargrave frequently adopts an over-the-shoulder view of events that brings the viewer into the action alongside Chris Hemsworth and the frightened teen in his care, evoking a 3D experience far more effectively than a pair of red and blue specs ever could achieve. The initial hour is fast-paced, violent and brutal as Hemsworth cuts a bloody swath through corrupt cops, gangsters and kidnappers alike. The phrase “on the edge of your seat” has never been more true than when applied to my experience watching this film – I can only imagine how much more intense it would have been on the big screen.
Hemsworth’s character Tyler Rake is a flawed protagonist dealing with some emotional baggage whilst throwing himself into harm’s way in the hope that a stray bullet will end his turmoil. Hemsworth truly proves himself as a leading man in this role, commanding control of the screen more effectively than he ever did in Thor and its sequels. While he will always be associated with Marvel’s God of Thunder, this film cements him as a versatile action star – able to deal with grittier subject matter than comic book adaptations and terrible Men in Black spin-offs. It is clear that Hemsworth throws himself fully into this role, committing to the physicality of the performance and yet developing a nuanced action hero. While the film works as a single story, I do worry that Hemsworth’s charismatic performance as Rake might lead to sequels and prequels that might dilute the impact of this one-of-a-kind movie.
Filmed on location in India, Extraction is a beautiful film and has a rich authenticity that is often lacking in big-budget action movies. The sheer scope of the action just proves how Netflix is becoming a true movie studio to rival the old mainstays of the industry – not one element of this movie feels like a “direct-to-video” release in the same ways that SyFy’s cheesy Sharknado movies do. There is a legitimacy to these Netflix movie releases that challenges the very nature of how we view entertainment. Disney+ is getting in on the game with original programming like The Mandalorian and its upcoming Marvel Cinematic Universe TV shows – blurring the line between cinema and TV. Director Sam Hargrave does a tremendous job at transporting viewers to the underbelly of Dhaka, making the city itself into a character alongside Rake and his teen accomplice.
While the plot of Extraction may seem relatively straight-forward, there are some neat wrinkles that come together to upset the seemingly simple extraction operation. The competition between Hemsworth’s Tyler Rake and Randeep Hooda’s Saju, reminded me somewhat of The Departed and the complicated relationship between Leonardo DiCaprio and Matt Damon’s characters. With a flash-forward opening sequence to set the tone, there was a sense of inevitable tragedy to the storyline as events hurtled towards a violent stand-off on the bridge exit out of Dhaka. The inclusion of the scarred street rat, determined to impress his drug overlord boss, was almost Shakespearian and while I predicted his ultimate role in the movie immediately after his debut, the inevitability of it hung over the movie like a dark cloud. Unlike most movies of its genre, Extraction is grim and fatalistic and there is no clear-cut morality – the use of child soldiers and the casual murder of children is shocking and distinguishes the film from typical Hollywood blockbusters.
Nestled amongst the copious amount of violence and bloodshed is an interesting story about redemption and sacrifice, adding a surprising amount of heart to what could easily be dismissed as a brainless action flick. The relationship between Rake and Ovi, the young boy he has rescued, is developed further in the second half of the film once the initial adrenaline of the frenetic escape has died down. Rudhraksh Jaiswal does a tremendous job at portraying the shell-shocked abductee, avoiding the “whiny brat” cliché to instead depict a more realistic view of a traumatized teen. The conversations between him and Rake build a connection between the pair that feels believable, and it seems feasible that Rake’s troubled history would lead him to make these selfless decisions to get the boy home and safe. While one villain gets his comeuppance, there were some elements of the film that felt unresolved – particularly a frustratingly ambiguous ending that reeks of corporate greed and the need for a sequel over storytelling. In fact, it is this attempt to please all audiences through its vague ending that loses the film a perfect score.
Extraction is a ballsy film from start to finish, and Chris Hemsworth continues to build his brand away from the Marvel Cinematic Universe – although the film promotion still references a connection to the Russo Brothers, the directors of Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame. The perfect escape from Covid-19 self-isolation, Extraction transports its viewers to the dark underbelly of crime and corruption through its uncompromising and brutal violence. There were plenty of audible groans between me and my wife as bones broke on-screen, faces got impaled on rakes and disposable henchmen were dispatched with efficient double-tap gunshots. More of an experience than a movie, Extraction is well-worth a full month’s subscription to Netflix.
Score – ★★★★ ½
Extraction is currently available to stream on Netflix.