Director: Sam Hargrave
Writer: Joe Russo
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Rudhraksh Jaiswal, David Harbour
Tyler Rake (Hemsworth), A hardened black-market mercenary with nothing to lose, is hired to rescue the kidnapped son of an imprisoned international crime lord. However, a mission that was already extremely high risk becomes even more seemingly impossible when Rake and his team are double crossed, with Rake and the boy becoming the pawn in a war between two notorious drug lords.
When I saw that Netflix were releasing yet another action film, I must confess that I did let out a bit of a depressed sigh and think “not again.” As they are essentially the primary source of new films at the moment (unless you want to spend £15.99 to digitally rent – that is RENT – films like Trolls World Tour) it is disappointing that their feature film output in the last couple of months since most of us have been put down on some kind of lockdown has been below par. There have been some highs (like The Platform), but they seem to constantly to want to give us action films. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love an escapist switch-brain-to-off action film as much as anyone else, but recent films like Spenser Confidential and Coffee & Kareem have been absolutely awful attempts at action ‘comedies’.
Well, Extraction is far more intentionally serious film, and all the better for it – what also helps is that it does not star Mark Walhberg! Extraction certainly is not going to win any prizes for originality, and will not be the most thought provoking and intellectually stimulating two hours of anyone’s life, but thanks to some very well-staged action sequences and a solid leading performance is a perfectly watchable and entertaining experience.
The plot is very basic, but that proves to be a very good thing as though there are admittedly some plot development that are either ridiculous, lazy or underdeveloped (but just about forgivable), this allows the visceral and brutal 18-rated high-octane action sequences to be the film’s key focus, and they very much elevate the generic plot and characters. In what is his feature length directorial debut, Sam Hargrave uses all of his experience as a stunt performer and coordinator in some very big budget films (including Marvel films) to full effect by making sure the camera stays at the very centre of the action, with his tendency to use long takes being the perfect antidote to Michael Bay’s migraine inducing rapid editing in the unwatchable recent Netflix release 6 Underground. The intense close-up (but thankfully not too shaky) camerawork effectively uses the film’s location of the sprawling and claustrophobic streets of Dhaka and Hemsworth’s physicality to make sure the action sequences remain gripping and don’t start to feel too repetitive or boring. Though we get the usual point, run and shoot gun battles, these thankfully take place between genuine fisticuffs between a very physically committed Hemsworth and various bad guys.
The main centre piece is of course the already much talked about single take 11-minute action sequence, and this is very well-staged and genuinely gripping viewing. Of course, from Touch of Evil to 1917, it is a commonly used technique, but there is certainly no harm in adapting these already tried and tested and slightly gimmicky techniques if they are done well, and Hargrave most definitely does this very effectively. The film does at times feel like a video game, but in the good way in the sense that we feel like we are very much there at the centre of the action and perspiring in the Bangladeshi humidity.
The more cynical of us might certainly argue that Extraction is a perfect example of Hollywood nepotism, with Hemsworth one of the main producers and Marvel stalwart Joe Russo also on scripting duties in what does seem like a multi-million pound cinematic equivalent of a few mates having some kind of party. However, the fact that Hargrave and Hemsworth have worked together before does seem to bear fruit, as they do get the best out of each other, and this may well be a factor as to why the action sequences are staged so well. Hemsworth is inevitably very much the star, and he has already proved that he is a great screen presence that has far more to offer than just being able to wield a hammer, and he brings a suitable intensity and physicality to his protagonist – this could have easily been a Mark Wahlberg film, and would have been far, far worse had it been so! As the main producer, this could so have easily felt like a complete vanity project for Hemsworth, and though the protagonist not only has a very silly name and is a walking cliché (including a very lame attempt at a character arc involving redemption for his past blah blah blah…), his physical commitment to the role seems genuine, and this is enough for us to route for him.
As the plot develops and the body count rapidly increases, there are certainly some very silly and unbelievably coincidental moments. There is also a subplot involving children becoming members of drug gangs, but though this does end up playing a quite an important part of the plot in a kind of way, it is certainly dealt with in a very casual way that is very much consistent with the film’s style-over-substance approach. Some slightly pointless and underdeveloped subplots and a rather limp ending aside, Extraction is certainly worth investing two hours of the enforced self-isolation and social distancing that we all currently face.
It will not win any prizes for originality, but despite the generic and minimal plot, thanks to some superbly staged action sequences and a good leading performance, Extraction is a very watchable film with enough to keep your attention for two hours – even though it will not live long on the memory once it has finished.
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