As the closest thing to a Summer blockbuster as we’re going to get for a few more months, Extraction sets its sights on filling the void left by the world closing down, as a lean, hard-edged action flick that will keep audiences satisfied during their self-quarantine.
Starring as Mercenary Tyler Rake — who at one point actually kills someone with a rake — is Chris Hemsworth. When we first meet Rake — what a name — he’s guzzling beer with his buddies and swan dives off a cliff and into the water. The subtlety of his character introduction is on par with that of Jay Gatsby or Dutch from Predator. When Tyler is called upon to rescue the kidnapped son of an imprisoned crime lord, he finds himself in over his head when the boy is wanted by a local crime lord with connections all over the city.
Stepping in the directors chair for the first time is long-time Stunt Coordinator, Sam Hargrave, (Avengers: Endgame, Atomic Blonde). Hargrave unsurprisingly excels in the films action sequences, but its to the extent that really overshadows the films weakest aspects. A 12-minute long take in the middle of the film is a jaw-dropping piece of filmmaking that will be studied for years to come. As the camera follows Hemsworth through a tense car chase, to running from legions of corrupt cops and henchmen, to a spectacular knife fight with a secretive man (Randeep Hooda) who is also searching for the kidnapped teen, the swift camerawork keeps the action tight and suspenseful without losing its sense of urgency. Some obvious digital stitching is apparent, but never detracts from the sheer magnitude of what’s being accomplished onscreen. Extraction is a real breakthrough in fight choreography and stunt work. Only The Raid 2 and Baby Driver have had equally thrilling car chases of the past 10 years.
Based off the graphic novel “Ciudad” and written by Joe Russo, one half of the Russo brothers, Extraction moves at a breakneck pace until it doesn’t. At 116 minutes, the runtime extends about 20 minutes too long with its attempts at characterizations falling largely flat, often grinding the film to a halt. Rudhraksh Jaiswal who co-stars as “Ovi”, the kidnapped son, is largely a blank character. The actor does an acceptable job in the role, but we never feel much for him or get any insight into his predicament. When the film stops in attempt to make us care about any connection between the two stars, ala Man on Fire or even the underrated 2012 thriller Safe House, the screen fills with dead air. These scenes also mark the clumsiest writing from Russo which doesn’t help Hemsworth’s solid dramatic performance. When Chris Hemsworth leg sweeps a man several inches off the ground, its pretty entertaining, but when his character is given a heart-to-heart sequence, you’ll be sitting wondering when the next action scene will happen.
Extraction is also stuck with an unfortunate identity crisis. The level of brutal violence suggests a more tongue-in-cheek approach to the material with occasional witty one-liners — Hemsworth at one point refers to a group of teenage soliders as “The Goonies from hell” — but that’s as humorous as the films gets, much to its own detriment. The tone is too self-serious for Extraction to achievement the Cannon films exploitation vibe it deftly flirts with; the intro to the main baddie features a child being thrown off a rooftop. The last 15 minutes also contains an egregious amount of gory head-shots, not that I’m complaining, but at least the John Wick films know how to have a consistent level of fun with its carnage.
Extraction delivers bare essential thrills for action fans. It’s awe-inspiring set pieces are just enough to make up for its confused tone and lack of compelling writing by giving audiences exactly what they want, and not much more.