Movie Review: Extraction
Extraction is about a mercenary haunted by his demons. He gets a job to extract the son of an Indian drug lord from the rival Bangladeshi drug lord. There are some complications of course and a gigantic body count as the mercenary, Tyler Rake, does everything in his power to complete his job. It stars Chris Hemsworth, Rudhraksh Jaiwal, Randeep Hooda, Pankaj Tripathi, Golshifteh Farahani, Priyanshu Painyuli, Shataf Figar, and David Harbour. It is directed by Sam Hargrave and written by Joe Russo. It is streaming exclusively on Netflix.
If Extraction is anything, it's an amalgam of action films that have come before it. I see Man on Fire, The Raid, 1917, 16 Blocks, Children of Men, and of course, John Wick. Every action movie after John Wick has been desperate to be John Wick. The lead characters are superheroes, taking generous and multiple injuries, but continuing on. One character in this film is hit by a truck and walks into the next scene with a slight limp. There's also the relentless, pulse-pounding action scenes with the added effect being staggering violence. Extraction is even directed by a stuntman as John Wick was.
This is nothing against Sam Hargrave, though. He's got a great competency behind the camera and is great creating these action sequences. Hargrave and cinematographer Newon Thomas Sigel have built some really great sequences with shifting perspectives and cuts being expertly hidden by editors Ruthie Aslan and Peter B. Ellis. I'm a sucker for tracking shots because I know how hard it can be to make them look good, so these sequences are really awe inspiring and got me into it, but what always gets me out of any film and Extraction especially is violence against children and teens.
I hate watching children be murdered. I hate watching children be hurt by adults. A teen is shot in the head and a preteen is thrown from a rooftop. It's disgusting and just uncouth. I didn't like watching as a preteen aimed a gun at Tyler, played by Hemsworth, because I knew, I knew, they would exploit that moment later. Guess what? That kid comes back and, guess what? Hemsworth kicks him into a truck. There's a whole scene of a gang of boys attacking Tyler and he hands them their asses like they're stuffed animals he's playing pretend with. It's disheartening because I knew even though he didn't kill them, these kids in the world of this film will be killed for failing. Even one of the characters, Gaspar, played by David Harbour, knows this when he gives Tyler the advice to be merciful and just put a bullet in a kid's head.
The body count for the film is tremendous. I use that in the pejorative sense because I couldn't help think about the soldiers and policemen killed by elite soldiers and compare it to the men and women John Wick kills on his sprees. In the John Wick films, the people are assassins, criminals, and other wise killers. The people that Tyler kills may be acting in the best interests of the people they serve in their day to day. They see a mercenary running around destroying cars, shops, food, and buildings. If he's stopped, then no one else can be hurt collaterally and they can keep people safe again. I know that's idealistic. I know it's not what the filmmakers intended, but I can't watch a film like this that paints a broad brush and take its side over nameless faceless casualties. There is one scene that redeemed much of the film for me, though.
Once Tyler and Ovi, the teen to be extracted, have bonded, they take refuge. Just like everything else, the place fails to be as safe as they hoped. Tyler ends up in a fight and when all looks lost, Ovi shows up and dispatches the enemy. Rather than a pep talk, a wry smile between the two of them, the story and the shot lingers. The dying character is going slower than they hoped. They're lingering and Ovi can't take his eyes off them. He cries and Tyler comforts him. It's a great scene in the midst of the action. It's strange, though, that a film that can take a beat like this, has such a disregard for life otherwise, even the much more interesting lives of characters other than Tyler.
Tyler is just an archetype. He's nothing new. He's pitifully common. Yet, there are characters in Extraction who are so much more. I really was impressed by Saju, played by Randeep Hooda, who has a very similar skill background to Tyler, but has much deeper motivations. I would be so fascinated to see what the story could have been like through his point of view. I wanted more of Golshifteh Farahani's Nik, as well who's never fleshed out and deserved so much more. I also really enjoyed getting to know Ovi and wish he could have had more to do, but instead of new and interesting characters, we're stuck watching Tyler, a cliche wrapped in a trope and buried under predictability.
The whole time I watched Chris Hemsworth, I kept worrying a little about him on a human level because without that immense other worldly frame he took on to play Thor, he looks a little anemic. Much like the plot of this film and the idea it presents, a little anemic. It needed more for most of it to have an impact on me. I saw every move the Tyler would make from a mile away and I did that before the film opened with its ending as so many films of this type do. I wouldn't recommend this film if you don't like violence and especially violence against children. I don't recommend this film if you want a great story that keeps you guessing, but I do recommend if all you want is an action film in an exotic locale and are jonesing because the theaters are closed and the next Fast and Furious film is postponed until next year.