Extraction review – a Netflix actioner with “oof” to spare

Chris Hemsworth in Extraction
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In the Russo brothers’ latest film following Avengers: Endgame, mercenary Chris Hemsworth has to kill absolutely everybody – here’s our review of Netflix’s Extraction.

Almost a year to the day after unleashing the new biggest box-office hit of all time, Avengers directors Joe and Anthony Russo have produced a very different kind of comic book movie with the new Netflix Original action film, Extraction. Based on Ciudad, a comic book series that Joe co-created in 2014, the film also stars the once and future Thor, Chris Hemsworth as a traumatised mercenary called Tyler Rake.

Fun as the character name makes it sound, the film follows a bleak and violent tumble through the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka, where a drug lord’s son, Ovi Jr, (Rudhraksh Jaiswal) has been kidnapped by his father’s rivals. After Rake is called in to extract him, all hell breaks loose, leaving the merc and his quarry on the run from the corrupt police and army as well as countless henchmen.

First-time director Sam Hargrave films Joe Russo’s screenplay here, completing a trajectory to the director’s chair that started when he impressed the producers as Chris Evans’ stunt double in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Having also worked as a stunt coordinator on Atomic Blonde and other Marvel movies, Hargrave transfers the urgent, knockdown style of fight choreography from those films into a wince-inducing actioner that takes its 18-certificate action seriously.

Mind you, it takes most everything else seriously as well, so when Tyler Rake exhibits the sort of superhuman punching power that registers somewhere between a metal-armed assassin and an Asgardian warrior, propelling opponents across the full length of the room, the film’s more stone-faced qualities feel peculiar.

In a less single-minded film, Rake might seem like a deconstruction of the Jack Reacher type that we’ve yet to see on screen. Although Hemsworth now fits the playing age for Lee Child’s military detective as written, as well as the implausible physical profile, Extraction doesn’t even give him that much to work with.

It’s not, as some reviews have suggested, that he’s not convincing in a non-comedic action role, (in fact, there are moments in each of his last three turns as Thor that prove his range) it’s that, unfortunately, the film grows more remote the further Rake gets from punching, stabbing, or shooting someone else.

Besides our protagonist, most of the film’s other characters are complete action-movie cyphers, most egregiously in the case of David Harbour’s turn as a grumbly teammate of Rake’s. Stranger still, one of the most compelling supporting characters, hostage-turned-child-soldier Farhad, (Suraj Rikame) has a surprisingly developed arc that mostly takes place in the periphery of the action. He appears throughout the story, but by the time Hemsworth dons kid-gloves to fight some actual kids, the film’s harrowing tone is belied by its primary interest in “oof”-inducing violence and action.

Still, there’s no denying that it’s playing to its strengths. This is a striking directorial debut from Hargrave. Although our jaded hero’s travails often recall more memorable moments from any number of films, including The Raid, (brawling in the close quarters of an apartment building) Children Of Men, (the show-stopping tracking shot through that same skirmish) and Sicario, (a climactic chase across a flyover where traffic is at a standstill) you can’t fault the action direction, nor Newton Thomas Sigel’s unflinching cinematography, nor the kinetic editing by Peter B. Ellis and Ruthie Aslan.

From its opening flash-forward to the uncertain epilogue, Extraction hits hard and hits often throughout its running time. It’s a shame that it never quite has the reach to exceed its generic premise, but it remains a technically excellent thriller that wins on breathtaking close-up carnage rather than leaving a lasting impression.

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