“You drown not by falling into the river, but by staying submerged in it.”
Netflix has a chequered past when it comes to their ‘original’ programming (a hazy term because lots of Netflix ‘original’ movies are just schlock no other studio wanted to distribute). For every standout like Okja, Dolemite is my Name, or The Irishman, there’s a bucket load of terrible films like The Ridiculous 6 or The Outsider or The Cloverfield Paradox. Extraction, the new Chris Hemsworth starrer (produced and written by his Avengers directors the Russo brothers) falls somewhere in the middle in terms of quality – but in terms of enjoyment it’s one of the best film’s Netflix currently has.
The action follows Hemsworth’s mercenary with a ridiculous name and a dead son, Tyler Rake, as he trys to extract the son of a drug kingpin after he was kidnapped by a rival gang. That’s really all you need to know plot wise, you can already see where the film is heading. Yes, Tyler is double crossed by his employers. Yes, his dead son flashbacks play a big role with his relationship with his target. And yes, there is lots and lots of brilliantly staged and creative action set-pieces. The plot holds few surprises; with the appearance of David Harbour’s old mercenary ‘friend’ of Rake’s we realise instantly that this is going to end with a double cross (this lacklustre twist is saved though by the always awesome Harbour). There is one element of the plot that took me by surprise though; the character of Saju (played by Randeep Hooda) and his storyline. He’s an enforcer for the drug kingpin who’s son Hemsworth is rescuing and it him who makes the decision to double cross Rake. For a good portion of the film, he is arguably the co-lead with Hemsworth’s Tyler Rake. And the inevitable fight between the two is so so good, it’s John Wick-level. But what becomes of him after that is even more interesting, so much so that it was him who I cared most about in the finale – even more so that Hemsworth.
The at-times-chliched plot is helped massively by fantastic bursts of awesome action. The film’s director Sam Hargrave started his career as a stuntman and did tons of stunt work on the Marvel movies (presumably where he met Extraction producers the Russo brothers). Stunt people understand action better than anyone else in the film industry, just look at ex-stunt man Chad Stahelski’s work on the John Wick franchise. That’s the case here too, Hargrave’s action is brilliantly shot and framed and has a sense of progression all to rare in most films. The push across the bridge during the film’s climax is superb. You never struggle to follow the action or question where the participants are in relation to one another. Another stand out moment is the films ‘oner‘. The long take is an overused gimmick at this point but it’s used really well here, as Rake and his target escape both currupt cops and the men who hired him. Hemsworth really takes a beating as Rake, and the wounds stay throughout the film. These little touches really elevate the film, even when the plot is reletively bare bones.
So Extraction isn’t a breaking any new ground in terms of filmmaking. But what it does well (the action, the performances) it does extremely well. Hemsworth gives it all and makes the ludicrous character of Tyler Rake believable. His co-star Randeep Hooda, is a revelation as the awesome and bad ass sort-of-bad guy (I’d bet money Hooda will pop up in the next John Wick film). And it’s just nice to see a big Hollywood action film set in India, the country makes such a beautiful and unique backdrop to all of the bone-crunching action. Extraction is an easy recommendation; it doesn’t reinvent the wheel but it’s a hugely enjoyable action film with some great performances. And besides, what else have we got to do?