Great action in Netflix's Extraction covers up so-so story
The new Netflix movie Extraction is not part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but you’d be excused if you thought it was, based on who was involved in its making. It stars Chris Hemsworth, aka Thor; was written by Joe Russo, who co-directed the last two Avengers movies; and was directed by Sam Hargrave, who’s making his feature directorial debut after working as the stunt coordinator on multiple Marvel movies.
Hemsworth plays Tyler Rake, a “fearless black market mercenary” whose skills are called upon when Ovi (Rudhraksh Jaiswal), the son of a international drug lord, is kidnapped by a rival drug kingpin. Tyler and his team have a plan for rescuing Ovi with relatively little fuss and muss, but when Saju (Randeep Hooda), an underling of Ovi’s dad, interferes for unknown reasons, Tyler must do everything in his power to protect Ovi.
What follows is a highly bloody, bullet-riddled story that rarely pauses the action. Hargrave is the latest in a recent spate of stunt coordinators-turned-directors (including David Leitch of Hobbs & Shaw and Chad Stahelski of the John Wick series), and to say that he puts his stunt skills to good use is an understatement.
There are multiple standout scenes, but the defining section of the film is an absolutely insane 12-minute car-and-foot chase sequence that is cleverly edited to make it seem like one long uninterrupted take. The sequence contains several “how did they do that?” moments, including the camera moving into the car while the car is in motion. There are things in the sequence that only a stunt coordinator would attempt, much less pull off seamlessly.
The action, which is great throughout, acts as cover for a story that is only so-so. The film is based on the graphic novel Ciudad, which was co-written by Russo, but for some reason he transferred the setting from Ciudad del Este, Paraguay to Dhaka, Bangladesh. The chaos in the cramped streets of Dhaka adds to the tension, but it also contributes to the confusion of the film as a whole.
Storytelling issues start literally at the beginning, as Hargrave and Russo choose to lead off with a moment that’s obviously toward the end of the story, and then go back in time to see how everything began. It’s an overused concept that insults the audience’s intelligence. As the film goes along, it gets increasingly difficult to understand who’s working with whom, especially when two rivals team up out of nowhere.
Despite the story issues, Hemsworth is highly effective in his role. Outside of playing Thor, Hemsworth has struggled to define himself as an actor, but he’s as good as any other recent action star here. Hooda makes Saju into a worthy adversary, and it’s nice to see his character be more than just a one-dimensional villain. The rest of the cast has little impact, including a random cameo by Stranger Things’ David Harbour.
Extraction is one of those mostly brainless action movies that is best enjoyed for the intensity of its fight and chase scenes. If you can focus on those and not the story, you’re in for a fun time.