“That’s certainly a Netflix Original!” is becoming a frequent description in my critical lexicon. It’s not a dig, but not a glowing recommendation, either. Filmmakers flock to the streaming mega-service’s “creative freedoms” model of hands-off production, but that advantage doesn’t always translate into better products. Frankly, it’s a hindrance given how crucial third-party editing is since filmmakers (and writers, trust me) bond themselves to their artistic “babies.” Sam Hargrave’s Extraction is yet another nearly-two-hour event that necessitates closer to ninety(ish) minutes, overstuffing itself while trying to replay Man On Fire’s greatest hits with a more military-trained background.
Mercenary Tyler Rake (Chris Hemsworth) accepts his hardest contract yet in the form of a dangerous kidnapping rescue. Ovi (Rudhraksh Jaiswal), the son of an international crime lord, faces certain death without Rake’s help. There’s no further explanation beyond a man for hire earning his payday by protecting Ovi as tactical strategies go haywire. Alone, without backup, Rake must protect Ovi from assassins while covering his outsider behind. He’s locked, loaded and only has a small mobilized army standing in the way of cash and a helicopter flight out of Dodge.
And that’s pretty much it. Extraction labels itself as a by-the-books survival thriller, and that’s what superstar stuntman turned debut director Mr. Hargrave delivers. From the minute specialist Rake infiltrates a hideout crammed with AK-47’ed henchmen, it’s precision headshots and broken bones at a premium. An opening brawl harkens back to The Raid as Rake bodyslams thugs through brick walls, their heads smacking against doorways or jagged edges as to make use of locational obstructions. From there, it’s another one-take-inspired frenzy that sets Rake and Ovi racing through market stalls and dingy apartments – kicking the overdrive gear that Hargrave aims to throttle.
Let’s make this clear. You’re watching Extraction for primetime action, and there’s no shortage of it. Bodies are riddled with bullets, plowed into by automobiles and punctured with projectile shrapnel. Hemsworth fulfills his duties as a roughened soldier of fortune who will not stop aerating craniums until his mission is complete, throwing Rake’s body into physically taxing scenarios without skipping an exhaustive beat. Double points for unleashing David Harbour as the goliath who stands tall and combative, body-slamming a certain musclebound Australian through furniture like it’s rotted plywood. Hargrave’s action sensibilities translate from onscreen choreography to directorial oversight, no question about it.
Here’s the thing, though. Tyler Rake’s black market bodyguard routine spills amusing amounts of evildoer blood and yet such a simplistic story fails to elevate Extraction beyond its generic-as-sin title. Extraction is about just that, an extraction. Bringing back Man On Fire, the chemistry between Denzel Washington and wee Dakota Fanning is equally as crucial as Denzel’s righteous dispatching of vigilante justice. In Extraction, the relationship between Hemsworth and Jaiswal plays second fiddle to the pew pews and bang bangs. It’s even comparable in naming conventions. Extraction primes you for a smash-and-grab run through genre motions, while Man On Fire markets a more feverous warpath brought upon by kill-em-all means.
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It’s not Hemsworth’s fault, mind you, nor any error. Extraction attempts to thread a backstory that issues agency unto Rake’s unwavering desire to save his adolescent mark, but that’s damn near halfway through an already overlong shoot-em-up. Emotional notes fall flat as blood gushes in sacrificial doses, where personal journeys are never more excellent than the sum of violence depicted onscreen. Gratuitous, well-structured, pulse-pounding violence that sells Extraction as this Call Of Duty inspiration where a singular objective doesn’t get in the way of complications. Don’t expect anything more and just embrace the Hemsworth hellfire assault.
Extraction hits the ground running, punches you in the jaw, and features plenty of sweaty, sock-it-to-me Chris Hemsworth. Snipers eliminate threats. Henchmen meet their maker in painful yet gratifying ways. Joe Russo’s screenplay adaptation of graphic novel Ciudad rests heavily on the fluid fight sequences orchestrated by Sam Hargrave, and it’s an at-times bruiser spectacle without question. If you want blood, you got it. If you want development, investment, and something more than background noise? Watch Man On Fire.
Extraction is an overstuffed rescue mission that delivers heart-racing action but never keys into any further development beyond the sum of corpses on your screen.