Netflix’s new action thriller Extraction is based on the cartoon Cuidad (by Joe Russo, who also wrote the screenplay); and it seems – for better or worse.
The lone wolf
Tyler Rake (Chris “Thor” Hemsworth) is a mentally injured elite soldier who now rents out his “services” to the highest bidder. He works within a loosely composed organization that takes on high-profile jobs with fat checks at the other end.
Tyler makes the days go by by drowning his sorrows (a family tragedy from the past) with beer and spirits in sun-warmed Australia. From time to time he deals with the idea of whether he should bother to get up from the sea at all, or just let himself drown in the wet grave. Then a new mission, of epic proportions, ticks in.
The question is whether Rake is able to shake off his self-pity, park the whiskey and focus on the “impossible” mission – at the same time as he, preferably, does not walk around with a death wish.
Caricatured drug barons
As we wrote, Extraction is based on a cartoon, and with that basic premise comes (most often) caricatured people, excessive action and tendencies to blatant “happy violence”. Elements we get in abundance as Rake sets out on his killing raid in the slums of Bangladesh.
The imprisoned big thug Mahajan experiences all parents’ nightmares when his son, Ovi (an absolutely brilliant Rudhraksh Jaiswal), is kidnapped from Mumbai. Not that he is exactly in line for the award “Best Dad of the Year!”, Or that he cares a little about his son; what he, on the other hand, cares about is possibly lost face and reputation. The son must be brought back, at any cost.
Rake and his team are involved, tasked with getting him out of the clutches of “Dhaka’s big son”, the drug lord Asif (Priyanshu Painyuli) – by all means.
Mahajan is evil as the day is long, and lives in his luxury home surrounded by nodding dolls. One of the “dolls”, Saju (Randeep Hooda), is given responsibility for the operation, threatening his own family’s life and health if he does not succeed.
In Bangladesh, Asif rules as a reincarnation of Fagin from the Dickens classic Oliver Twist and manages his drug cartel with a gang of youngsters as a thug pack; in addition, he has the local police and military on the payroll. On suspicion of embezzlement, one of his baboons just as well throws a 10-year-old from the roof – straight to death. At home, he sits in his gold-plated chairs and candelabra in the purest Trump style.
Caricatured so they last, but the gangster sharks are then nothing more than empty cardboard figures and necessary staffing for the Hero to show himself and his fighting skills – and on that level, Extraction delivers so it lasts!
Rake is like a hyper-efficient one-man army in that he puts in his shock to free Ovi.
The director is the stuntman (!) Sam Hargrave, he has 80 films as a stuntman on his CV, but makes his debut as a feature film director with Extraction.
We are served blatantly exaggerated cloud scenes, and melee scenes heavily inspired by the Bourne series. The violence is graphic and comes close as hail, but not as exaggerated as in Sin City, 300 and its like. Exaggerated, but beautifully choreographed in a beautiful dance of death where the goal always sanctifies the means.
The car scenes are fierce, authentic and intense as you race through the chaotic, narrow streets of Dhaka, filled with people, dust, sharp subjects and tuk-tuks.
Like John McClane himself, Tyler Rake gets a “rough day at work”, but he is not invulnerable or invincible either (Saju, on the other hand…).
Hemsworth is perfectly cast as the sullen, grunting assassin, who also elegantly convinces with a sly comment or a tear running down his cheek. In other words, as far away from a one-dimensional John Rambo as we were served in the hopeless Rambo V that it is possible to get.
The movie rises from average, thoughtless, action films, among other things in that it is beautifully filmed and cut; in addition, it gives us glimpses of complex protagonists, interesting supporting roles and excellent acting.
In a moving scene, halfway through, our two heroes surrender to each other. Rake admits what a loser he really is, while Ovi tells of a lost childhood with an absent / uninterested father. Cliche? Of course; but with such talented actors, they get away with it.
At the end we almost forgot to mention that David Harbor (Stranger Things) does a small, very enjoyable, guest role. He alone is worth two hours in front of the big screen, accompanied by popcorn, Snickers and a cold beer.
Is it then a cinematic masterpiece we are served? Not deleted, but definitely a highlight in the popcorn entertainment segment. 5 faint stars.