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Chris Hemsworth’s latest star vehicle contains some exciting action sequences, but Extraction is bogged down by a boring plot.
It is a shame that Extraction doesn’t have a title that matches its absurdity. This is a film filled with reality-defying feats of action and violence. It is also a film that features a protagonist with the obscenely stupid name of Tyler Rake, and has a scene in which he kills someone, in particularly gory fashion, with a rake. His enemies should be thankful the film doesn’t take place in a garden centre. It is at moments like this that Extraction is at its best. It’s therefore unfortunate that the disconnect between the seriousness of the title and the stupidity of some of its scenes come to define the film as a whole, particularly when it is trying to tell a story.
What passes for a plot concerns the kidnapping of a rich man’s son in Dhaka, India. Chris Hemsworth (who plays Tyler Rake, but I can’t keep writing that name) is a private mercenary brought in to rescue the boy and take him to safety. Cue some father-son bonding as the two make their way from shoot-out to shoot-out. Heavy themes such as child soldiers are dabbled with but aren’t given space to breath, instead being reduced to particularly morbid set dressing. Things also fall flat when attempts are made to give the characters some depth. The scene in which Hemsworth’s tragic backstory is relayed takes the form of a stilted game of twenty questions. It feels like water is being tread until we can move on to the next action scene.
Thankfully, when it comes to action Extraction delivers. The film is directed by Sam Hargrave, who has extensive experience of stunt work, and it shows. Hargrave’s last project was Avengers: Endgame, and combined with scriptwriter Joe Russo, one half of the Russo brothers who directed the blockbuster, and Chris Hemsworth in the lead, there is a triumvirate of Marvel influence. Fresh from beating Thanos, Thor has kept off the weight and replaced his hammer with guns, lots of guns. One particularly enjoyable scene sees him fighting off a gang of errant children, whom are referred to as “the Goonies from hell”.
Apart from Marvel, Hargrave also handled stunt work on the cold war thriller Atomic Blonde. That film featured a particularly impressive oner shot that thrillingly captured a fight scene in a tower block. Here, it might have been topped. Clocking in at over ten minutes, the scene is absolutely seamless. The spectacle of the sequence makes me suspect it is comprised of a variety of shorter takes stitched together, but it is an outstanding achievement of choreography and the films best set piece. If you enjoyed the sense of immersion the technique gave 1917, then the attempt in Extraction is well worth experiencing.
It is just a disappointment that this sequence is surrounded by scenes of boring, mostly pointless exposition. There is a more serious narrative attempting to emerge from beneath the scenes of exaggerated action, and this means the film has something of an identity crisis. Is it a serious drama, or is it a big, dumb action movie? Given the fact that the shoot-outs are by far the best parts, my answer is emphatically the latter.
Because of this, it seems somewhat strange to include such dark subject matter in service of some violent catharsis. John Wick is about a man trying to get his dog back, and Extraction would be a far smoother viewing experience if it drew from a similar vein of narrative absurdism. Nobody remembers The Raid because of its nuanced views on tower blocks. Similarly, no one will remember Extraction because of its take on conflict. What it will be remembered for is that brilliant twelve minute action sequence.
Looking for carnage as a distraction from all the chaos? Well you can catch Extraction over Netflix right now.
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