I’m a little late to the party with this one, but over the past week Netflix has achieved new heights with its latest release, an action thriller called “Extraction”, which teams Thor himself Chris Hemsworth with his stunt coordinator from the MCU Sam Hargrave, who makes his directorial debut, in a story adapted from the graphic novel “Ciudad” by non-other than Joe Russo, one half of the Russo Brothers who directed numerous MCU films. That’s a lot to take in but trust me when I say it’s a great selling point for the movie. “Extraction” is about as close to a blockbuster-type film as Netflix has ever attempted resulting in the highest opening week streaming audience for the service to date. So, I couldn’t help but see for myself what all the fuss was about and if this movie truly earns the attention beyond its big name cast and crew or if it’s a case of mindless action winning out again over real substance. As you’ll soon read it’s definitely the latter, but that’s not always a bad thing.
“Extraction” sees Chris Hemsworth portray Tyler Rake, a mercenary who joins with a team to locate, rescue and extract a young man named Ovi, played by Rudhraksh Jaiswal, the son of a drug kingpin who has been kidnapped by a rival drug lord. Rake and his team soon discover they have been double-crossed by their own employer and Rake finds himself in the fight of his life attempting to protect Ovi with an entire city and a henchman of Ovi’s father standing in his way. This summary brings me to the first problem I have with the film, and it’s the biggest problem, which is its story. “Extraction” offers little in the way of originality as far as its basic setup and plot following a familiar theme to the action genre where a warrior is called into action to save a young target caught in between two factions resulting in a fight for survival when all hell breaks loose. It really isn’t anything new and the writing forces the film into a corner with the infamous “white savior” trope which is hard to ignore, especially when it has a much better option in a secondary character that could have made for a more original and compelling lead.
A second mercenary named Saju, played by Randeep Hooda (show above), serves as one of many roadblocks for Rake in protecting Ovi. Saju isn’t there to kill the young man but rather to extract him before Rake does. Both Hemsworth and Hooda turn in great performances and play off each other well in combat as the two men fight for the same real estate, but while it’s cool to see Hemsworth do what he does and adding his name to the film was likely at least in part to bring some star-power buzz to the picture I couldn’t help but think it would have been awesome just to see Hooda play the lead role and take Hemsworth’s character out of the picture entirely. Hooda’s Saju is set up as a man who has to go above and beyond to save his boss’s son or his family will pay the price creating a scenario where his personal stakes are much highest that Rakes’, who has a more by-the-numbers motivation for his actions. Saju’s story arc would have made for a much better movie and you wouldn’t have had to sacrifice the action to make it work. Saju fights because he has to whereas it always feels like Rake rights partly because he wants to which, to me, makes Saju a much more intriguing character. As it is though the inclusion of Saju as a major player and a sympathetic anti-hero is still worth praising so I’ll take what I got. If we had to have two leads I really did enjoy both characters and both actors, I just feel there were some major missed opportunities and that Saju should have been the focus and could have made for an overall better central character thank Rake does.
Story and characters aside though, this movie was made to be an action film first and a story driven narrative second and man does it pay off on the former. If you don’t dig too deep beneath the surface and just enjoy the slick editing, expertly crafted fight scenes, choreography and stunt work, which are all right in Sam Hargrave’s wheelhouse, you’ll find yourself completely invested. For almost the whole first hour this film rarely slows down and the extended action sequence that caps off the first half of the film had me completely ignoring everything I didn’t like about the movie as I was fulling engaged by how cool and epic the chaos and hand to hand combat was. If you go by the action alone this film is a masterwork of stunt sequences and combat that feels right at home as a Russo Brothers production. Several action sequences are designed to appear as long, uncut-shots and every time you think something is going to slow down something new comes into the picture to amp things back up again. The second half of the film isn’t quite as fun or engaging but it still has its moments to shine. Put simply, this film is not a great story or very original but it’s an epic purely action driven movie.
I also kind of appreciate how “Extraction” avoids a trope a lot of other features of its caliber tend to embrace. While it is mildly stained by the white savior cliché, it doesn’t make the culture of its setting look bad. “Extraction” takes place mostly in Indian and Asian territories but never goes out of its way to vilify people of Indian decent and fully embraces its setting making for some neat cultural atmosphere especially when staging fights. Many of the heroes are Indian as well and the use of the drug lord theme for the villains as opposed to terrorism or religious uprising which are more commonly associated with Indian antagonists in Hollywood helps downplay any xenophobic inspirations for the story in my opinion. It might be too bold for me to compliment this film for being culturally aware when I myself am not Indian, but I’m just presenting my observations. I’m not calling this film revolutionary, but I am giving it credit for being unique in that it could have easily worked its plot around a more obvious racial stereotype and it doesn’t. I genuinely appreciated that. It made the action more about the scenario and the stakes and less about ethnicity which is an all-too-common sin of action films even in our more open-minded society today.
“Extraction” is a fun movie. It’s not a great movie, maybe just a good movie, but it’s most definitely a fun movie. There was a lot I shamelessly enjoyed about this film mostly rooted in the action, stunt work and the likability of the heroes. The lack of originality with the overall narrative kind of put me off a bit and I do wish Saju could have been the sole hero. It’s never a good thing when I can come up with a better overall idea when watching the film than the writer obviously did. In the end though this is not a film that cares too much about providing us with a great story. It’s all about the action and, thanks to a stunt coordinator leading from behind the camera, it shines on nearly every level in that regard. While it’s far from anything astounding, it is undeniably enjoyable and for a lot of people that’s all that’s really going to matter. It definitely has some great Hollywood blockbuster potential and I’d highly recommend it for that reason alone.