April 24th 2020 (Netflix Premiere)
Tyler Rake, a fearless black market mercenary, embarks on the most deadly extraction of his career when he's enlisted to rescue the kidnapped son of an imprisoned international crime lord.
Chris Hemsworth, Golshifteh Farahani, Rudhraksh Jaiswal, David Harbour
To be a headline star of a successful franchise is a privilege not afforded to many actors. For a short period, they become household names and, naturally, their faces become intrinsically attached to the character they play.
Alas, all good things (and Twilight) must come to an end. Some achieve post-franchise prosperity (Robert Pattinson with Good Times, The Lighthouse and High Life), some prefer to go for projects with characters as far removed from what they’re known for as possible (Daniel Radcliffe from Harry Potter to a farting corpse in Swiss Army Man, Elijah Wood from Lord of the Rings‘ Frodo to football Hooligan in Green Street), while a few lend their faces to some of the years biggest box-office bombs (Robert Downey Jnr. in the ghastly Dolittle, Jennifer Lawrence for Passengers).
Now that the latest Phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe has wrapped up with Endgame, the Avengers face their toughest challenge yet – to keep their star power burning in a post-Thanos World.
For Chris Hemsworth, who played the God of Thunder Thor in the record-breaking series, his first move was a somewhat ill-advised attempt to jump straight into another established franchise. Taking the lead alongside his Thor: Ragnarok colleague Tessa Thompson (Annihilation) in a reboot of the Men In Black films which made a megastar of one Will Smith in 1997, the duo’s chemistry failed to blow up the Box Office, making a meagre $80 million domestically on an estimated $110 million budget.
Scaling things back for his next project, Hemsworth heads up the ultra-violent Netflix Original actioner Extraction. He plays Tyler Rake, a black market mercenary tasked with protecting a young boy, Ovi (Rudhraksh Jaiswal), who’s being used as a pawn between two warring drug lords.
Screenwriter Joe Russo, whose name you may recognise as another distinguished Marvel crew member having directed both Infinity War and Endgame with his brother Anthony, isn’t attempting to write the genre rule book here. It’s an unapologetic balls-to-the-wall, run ‘n gunner featuring a grizzled and troubled combat veteran who doesn’t care if he lives or dies.
What it does have going for it is director Sam Hargraves’ construction of its many action sequences. While Extraction marks his first time in the director chair for a full-length feature, Hargraves’ extensive expertise in stunt co-ordination results in some exquisitely filmed set pieces. Most notably, a 12-minute sequence shot as if it’s all one take with seamless transitions from car chases and hand-to-hand combat to having Rake swat away henchmen through the densely populated streets and homes of Dhaka. It’s breathtaking stuff and easily one of the best fight sequences of 2020 so far.
Disappointingly then, it’s the subsequent moments of downtime intended to allow you to catch your breath where you might find yourself fighting back yawns instead. Rake is introduced as a tough nut to emotionally crack and remains that way. A short exchange between Ovi (who ironically amounts to little more than a plot device rather than bringing anything meaningful to the picture) and Rake very late in the game attempts to make us care about our stoney-faced (but still pleasant to look at, obviously) hero of few words with a peek at his personal pain, but there’s no escaping he has the personality of a Papadum.
In terms of its villains, Extraction throws plenty of disposable foes for Rake to mow down. From the corrupt police officers to a seasoned Special Forces Officer whose own family’s safety is on the line after being sent by Ovi’s father to get the boy from Rake, the stakes are high for all involved. The most memorable of these though are the young kids looking to make a name for themselves on the tough streets of Bangladesh who are employed by humiliated kidnapper Amir Asif (Priyanshu Painyuli). It may not be geographically accurate (with one look at the IMDb’s user reviews of the film angrily opposing the portrayal of their home city), but it sure is hilarious to watch Hemsworth effortlessly put some serious bruisings on loutish teens.
There’s only so much fun to be had with its featherweight premise though and by Extraction’s conclusion I’d grown fatigued by the tedium of ‘highly skilled gunman shoots things with pinpoint accuracy’. There are a few potential themes that never fully materialise – the idea of what fatherhood means to each of the main players being one example – and a notable appearance by Stranger Things’ David Harbour as Gaspar, an old squad mate of Rake, momentarily livens proceedings but when the credits hit Extraction is unlikely to leave any lasting impression.
Extraction is now streaming exclusively on Netflix.
Excellent action sequences choreographed by an expert stunt co-ordinator turned director
Cleverly filmed one take scene that merges a car chase, hand-to-hand combat and gunfire battles as they brawl through densely crowded streets
Use of youngsters bring an unexpected threat – and humour
Refreshing to see a location other than the US or UK
Minimal connection between Ovi and Rake
The moments between action meant to catch your breath might find yourself fighting back yawns instead
Expert marksman shoots things with pinpoint accuracy gets dull by the finale
Some missed opportunities to expand hinted themes