Synopsis – Tyler Rake, a fearless black market mercenary, embarks on the most deadly extraction of his career when he’s enlisted to rescue the kidnapped son of an imprisoned international crime lord.
My Take – As we all know by now, the annual summer blockbuster season was supposed to begin from the coming weekend, however, the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has led to a major shift in release dates all over, with studios either pushing the film to the end of the year or simply taking up whatever spot is available in 2021.
While Disney‘s Mulan, the only action film closest to release, still three months away (set for July 24), thankfully Netflix has come up with an offering which might quench thirsty action fans for at least sometime. After all the project hails from the Russo brothers, whose filmography consists of four Marvel blockbusters including Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame, is written by Joe Russo, and is based on an original graphic novel named Ciudad, only with the action transposed from Ciudad del Este in Paraguay to Dhaka, Bangladesh.
The film also marks the directorial debut of Sam Hargrave, who worked as the stunt coordinator and second unit director on a series of Marvel films, The Hunger Games franchise, as well as Deadpool 2 and Atomic Blonde. And as one would have expected, as a director Hargrave definitely knows his skill, as he leaves a spectacular impression by presenting us with action that is delightfully relentless, polished, inspired, bone-breaking and raw.
His ability to capture an action sequence with clarity, with precision and without the forgiving mask of shaky-cam is really a breath of fresh air for the action genre. Even though the story is quite ordinary, the film does succeed in engaging the viewer with the content, as every wet crunch in the film is hard earned through an unflinching and unforgiving steady gaze on the accuracy of the close quarter’s combat, even when it goes to those clichéd zones.
Like who doesn’t want to witness Chris Hemsworth administer beatings and receives beatings, in an unstoppable barrage of physical agony?
The story follows Tyler Rake (Chris Hemsworth), an ex-Aussie military and now a fearless black market mercenary, who despite deep in grief over the loss of his young son, agrees to a job offered by his follow partner-in-crime Nik Khan (Golshifteh Farahani), provided he gets paid right at the end of the job. The mission is simple, Tyler needs to get into Dhaka, and carry out an extraction of a teenager named Ovi (Rudraksh Jaiswal), whose father, Mahajan (Pankaj Tripathi), happens to be India’s biggest drug lord, and the kidnapping, a result of his ongoing rivalry with Amir Asif (Priyanshu Painyuli), Bangladesh’s biggest drug lord.
However, the mission proves significantly more difficult than originally anticipated, as Asif along with his variety of goons, also enlists the help of armed police and military forces to shut down the entire city to prevent their escape. Making matters more complicated, Saju (Randeep Hooda), a former Indian Special Forces operator and henchman of Mahajan, also comes down to Dhaka, to oversee the rescue, but with plans of his own on how to achieve this.
If the plot sounds a little bit like a Taken clone to you, then you’re not far wrong; there are certainly the hallmarks of the kidnap / man on a mission sub-genre here: tortured family man with a set of lethal skills. But these paint-by-numbers genre tropes are used to lull the viewer into a false sense of security and the film takes a couple of really big swings early on to try to reassure that, far from a typical Taken riff, all bets are off.
Though the film isn’t quite as deep as it wants you to think it is, but it is certainly a better-than-average action thriller with some actual surprises and engaging situations. It serves its purpose as a very exciting distraction, and it’s entertaining enough to watch more than once, after all it is mounted as a highly stylized action entertainer with a universal appeal.
Director Hargrave has been around stunts his entire career, so it’s understandable if his focus falls on the choreography of some massive fights and chase sequences over deeper character development or logistical plot twists. The film is filled with notably high-octane, beautifully choreographed action sequences, courtesy of director Hargrave‘s hard-earned stunt expertise, in which Tyler channels his inner John Wick to even out the odds a bit.
Thanks to a generous $65 million budget from Netflix, the production values are very high, on par with many theatrical releases, and while the plot is occasionally muddled, things move along at a brisk pace.
The prestige piece of the film is a 12 minute single take action sequence encapsulating a chase on foot, a gun battle, a high-speed car chase and a brutal fist fight, that is impressive and breathtaking to witness. At one point, the camera slithers around a speeding car, catches back up to it and improbably lands in the backseat. It is the sort of muscular, visceral filmmaking that makes action cinema so vital and exciting.
The film also proves that the size of the screen does not make a huge difference, as Newton Thomas Sigel optimally uses his skills to stage a film high on chases and action. His drone shots over Dhaka show a city as cramped as Tyler’s head with skies as crimson as the constant blood gushing out of his wounds. Sigel uses several tracking shots to complement Ruthie Aslan and Peter B Ellis‘ pacey editing.
While the hard-boiled dialogue is present, the film, like most action flicks, also contains underdeveloped secondary characters and predictable plot developments, and you can feel the film struggling to fully escape its roots. There are nods at deeper emotional resonance, most notably a brief bonding moment between Tyler and Ovi while holed up in a temporary shelter, they quickly give way to another violent action sequence.
The subplot involving Saju’s family feels too weak and worn out. Similarly, the history of the longstanding feud between the Indian and Bangladeshi drug lords is never explained, which leaves the whole situation seem extremely under-utilized.
Performance wise, Chris Hemsworth, returning to his native Australian accent for a change, once again makes for a charismatic lead and lends a likeable and surprisingly deep performance to his fairly two-dimensional mercenary character. Though he is already an action star, holding down a key role as Thor in the Marvel Cinematic Universe while also dabbling in uneven franchise efforts like Men In Black International or The Huntsman: Winter’s War. He’s equally supported by newcomer Rudhraksh Jaiswal, who delivers a convincing performance.
As the main antagonist, the supremely talented Priyanshu Painyuli felt insufficient in his role. There is even an attempt to make him a Pablo Escobar, but that character never stays with you simply because of the unimpressive writing. In supporting roles, Golshifteh Farahani is fine, while David Harbour and Pankaj Tripathi deliver in small roles.
However it is Randeep Hooda who is the real revelation. As the enforcer, Saju, he manages to be believably frightening and sincere; tender with his family and brutal with his opponents. On the whole, ‘Extraction’ is a solid, slick and intense action thriller that delivers bone-crunching entertainment.
Directed – Sam Hargrave
Rated – R
Run Time – 116 minutes