Extraction (United States, 2020)

April 29, 2020
A movie review by James Berardinelli
Extraction Poster

If you’re looking for a strong narrative to go along with kick-ass action, you’re not going to find it in Extraction, a direct-to-Netflix thriller that offers plenty of the latter but not a lot of the former. The movie provides little more than a basic framework upon to hang about a half-dozen high-octane, brutal segments but, aside from a surprisingly effective bonding scene (which works as an intermission to allow the viewer’s blood pressure to normalize), there’s not a lot of character development or plot complexity to go along with the shooting, fighting, chasing, and bone-crunching that defines Extraction.

Chris Hemsworth gets an opportunity to flex his action muscles although the movie ignores his comedic aptitude (something increasingly evident in recent productions, including Avengers: Endgame, where he debuted “fat Thor”). There’s no room for laughter (or even one-liners) in this oh-so-serious outing about rootless mercenary Tyler Rake’s (Hemsworth) mission to extract a kidnapped teenager, Ovi Mahajan (Rudhraksh Jaiswal), from the clutches of urbane Bangladesh crime lord Amir Asif (Priyanshu Painyuli). Tyler has a rival who’s also trying to free Ovi. Saju (Randeep Hooda) is a hired killer who perceives Tyler as an impediment needing removal. When Amir puts a bounty on Tyler’s head (let every gun in the city be pointed at him), the movie takes a page of two out of John Wick, albeit without the biting sense of humor or the murderous choreography.

The body count is high. Really high. Almost as high as the octane. Stunt coordinator/fight coordinator Sam Hargrave (who has previously worked with Hemsworth on several of the Thor-related outings), making his directorial debut, goes all-out in the action department. This includes an 11-minute seemingly single-shot sequence that, although almost certainly assembled with the help of a computer, is impressive nonetheless. Hargrave’s approach to violence is different from the one employed by the John Wick directors. Extraction is less stylized and more in-your-face. If John Wick treats mayhem like a ballet, Tyler is more of a bull-in-the-china shop type.

Structurally, the movie suffers from one my least favorite devices – the choice to open with an action-oriented scene from late in the narrative’s chronology which is interrupted at a cliffhanger moment by a lengthy (roughly 80 minutes) flashback that rewinds events by two days. Although there are times when this approach can be effective (usually because of a twist or some kind of misdirection), nothing happens in Extraction to justify this. It’s just a way to start off with a bang.

The relationship between the emotionally closed-off Tyler and his naïve charge is well-handled, providing a meaningful bond without resorting to overt sentimentality. Credit Hemsworth and Rudhraksh Jaiswal; they have solid chemistry. The screenplay understands how to develop something between them without lathering it on too thickly. There’s also a nice level of ambiguity about Randeep Hooda’s Saju, who’s shown both as a heartless killer and a loving father/husband. These are little things but they elevate Extraction above the generic level where it might have settled without them.

Without question, Extraction is the best action-oriented film released during the first third of 2020. One could argue that such a statement is damning with faint praise. After all, with heavyweight contenders like No Time to Die and Black Widow having been delayed, the competition is weak. Nevertheless, Netflix’s hiring of Hemsworth and the Russo Brothers (who write and co-produce) shows they’re ramping up not only to challenge for Oscar nominations but to go toe-to-toe with so-called tent-pole movies. As recently as a few years ago, it would have been unthinkable for a movie with this level of spectacle to bypass theaters but that was then and this is now. Extraction is bold not only for the way it tells its story but the medium in which it has chosen to tell it.

Extraction (United States, 2020)

Run Time: 1:56
U.S. Release Date: 2020-04-24
MPAA Rating: "R" (Violence)
Genre: Action/Thriller
Subtitles: none
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1