Extraction - Film Review - Chris Hemsworth’s Netflix actioner delivers a hammer blow to the senses
The plot outline of Escape from New York meets the visual palette of Black Hawk Down and the action choreography of John Wick in stuntman Sam Hargrave’s first feature film.
Chris Hemsworth has had a bit of a rough time outside of the MCU (which is saying something seeing as his Marvel character had endured the death of his people, his family and half of the universe). Men in Black: International was an unfortunate flop; The Huntsman: Winter’s War was an unnecessary spin-off to a moody Snow White retelling.
His latest, Extraction, seemed like a by-the-numbers action thriller that would continue this streak of almost hits. And yet, Hemsworth stars in a film that smartly follows the template laid out by recent hit franchise John Wick: keep the plot simple, while orchestrating complex, visceral action set pieces. As such, Extraction is a welcome continuation of the return to clear-cut, stunt-heavy action.
Extraction will satisfy fans of true action filmmaking [...] a devotion to following the fighting over continuous shots, carefully cut together...
No rest for the wicked
Following Tyler Rake (Chris Hemsworth), a mercenary for hire, Extraction charts an operation that doesn’t go according to plan: a plan to intercept and save the son (Rudhraksh Jaiswal) of an Indian drug lord from a rival’s turf in the city of Dhaka, Bangladesh. Unexpected interference forces Tyler into a life-or-death chase across the city.
The word chase is appropriate, for the feeling of onward momentum is captured beautifully by some clean camerawork from first-time filmmaker Sam Hargrave and director of photography Newton Thomas Siegel.
Hargrave himself is a stunt coordinator by trade, having worked with producers Joe and Anthony Russo on those little movies, Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Endgame. That experience is on full display with the commitment to bone-crunching, live-action and sweat-inducing long takes; it squeezes an uneasy feeling from the film, like we’re waiting for a live grenade to explode.
One particular sequence - an extended pursuit through a building block that ends in a knife fight on the streets - is carefully cut together to feel like a breathless, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it battle. This relentlessness highlights the brutality of Hemsworth’s Tyler, who dispatches his foes using a handgun and fist combo that is all too reminiscent of John Wick’s infamous ‘gun-fu’ choreography: if you’re going to borrow, borrow from the best.
Serving the bigger picture
As with John Wick though, Tyler’s proclivity for quick executions is bathed in light character motivations that still prove effective.
With the clichéd history steeped in tragedy, Tyler holds a do-or-die attitude that is slowly peeled away as he wrestles between the job at hand and the innocent kid in his hands - it’s a story that’s been told before, but this particular example is held together by the charismatic acting chops of Chris Hemsworth.
Hemsworth is a gifted comedic actor - no one can dispute this after Taika Waititi unleashed Parody’s Box through Hemsworth’s revelatory turn in Thor: Ragnarok. However, his dramatic touch isn’t lost, as he delivers a nuanced turn as a killer with a conscience.
It helps that he commits to a number of his own stunts and fight sequences: Hemsworth uses these to help shape our understanding of the character, whose brutality has deliberately nullified his sensitivity to personal trauma. It’s nothing truly exploratory, but it serves the story well.
A familiar film
Ultimately, Extraction will satisfy fans of true action filmmaking: while ‘shaky-cam’ makes a few appearances, it rouses up the film’s rapid pace, already established by a devotion to following the fighting over continuous shots, carefully cut together.
Luckily, it substitutes a mind-numbing narrative crutch - "the kid is the key to a wider conspiracy" - for simple yet effective character-building. The brutality of the action; the excessive violence on display - these play off of Hemsworth’s troubled mercenary, whose seemingly absent morality is slowly teased back into perspective. No, this is not a video essay on military force: it’s just a bloodbath with a bit of brain thrown in. So throw yourself in - it’s quite the ride.
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