Monday May 04, 2020
Movie Review: Extraction (2020)
“Extraction” premiered on Netflix on April 24, a little more than a month into our nationwide Covid-19 lockdown, but I have to wonder which is more deadly—Covid or Chris Hemsworth?
Covid is more indiscriminate but not by much. The titular extraction starts out as a gig for Tyler Rake (Hemsworth), but it quickly becomes a mission. He’s urged by his partners to abandon the asset, Ovi Mahajan (Rudhraksh Jaiswal), the sensitive, teenaged son of a ruthless, jailed Indian drug lord, who’s been kidnapped by a Bangladeshi drug lord, but he can’t do it. He couldn’t save his own son, who died from lymphona at age 6, but at least he can save Ovi. That’s his thinking. And to do so, how many young kids does he leave fatherless in Dhaka, Bangladesh? Fifty? 100? More? Most of them are cops, right? And sure, it’s a corrupt town, ruled by Amir Asif (Priyanshu Painyull), but what can one man do? Frank Serpico wouldn’t last a day there.
You know which death bugged me the most? OK, so Tyler shows up in Dhaka, hangs out at a streetside café and waits to be contacted by the kidnappers. He is: van pulls up, a black hood is thrown over his head, etc. But one of his team is watching: a dude with one of those huge, hipster beards and amused eyes. He’s Gaetan, a sharpshooter, who helps Tyler extract the kid; but then they’re all betrayed by Saju (Randeep Hooda), the kid’s father’s right-hand man, who can’t afford to pay them but has to extract Ovi or lose his own son. Bam bam bam. Gaetan’s amused eyes dim forever. I was bummed. I was like, “Who’s that actor? I’d like to see him in other stuff.”
Turns out he’s the director, Sam Hargrave, and “Extraction” is a kind of spinoff of the “Avengers” movies. It stars Thor, the screenplay was written by Joe Russo, who co-directed “Civil War,” “Infinity War” and “Endgame,” while its director, Hargrave, was the longtime stunt/fight coordinator for Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. Avengers creators re-assemble!
This is Hargrave’s first feature-length directing credit—he’s mostly a stunt guy. He’s got 80 such credits over the last 15 years: from the “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies to “Atomic Blonde” to “Wolf Warrior II,” the highest-grossing film in Chinese history. That's why “Extraction” is full of great stunts, great fight scenes, great fight choreography. There’s also a lot of amazing single-tracking shots—although I assume some of them have been CGIed.
But it’s endless, brutal and a bit much. I was impressed by the expertise but bored quickly. There’s just not much there there. How do you make long flight/fight sequences interesting? You need to humanize it. And I don’t mean with blurry flashbacks of a child’s footprints on the beach. I mean the way Jackie Chan did it in the 1980s. Humor helps.
At least they humanize Saju, the ostensible villain, who becomes partners with Tyler at the ninth hour—although I didn’t quite get why they had to go across the bridge. Was there no place to land a helicopter in the city? Couldn’t it hover? I like the subplot with the “smart, lucky” kid, the one who winds up killing Tyler on the bridge, and I like that the movie is introducing a ton of Indian actors to western audiences. Then there’s the ambiguous ending: Ovi, back home, diving into a pool, meditating at the bottom as Tyler always did (how does Ovi know Tyler did this?), then emerging to see a blurry, green-jacketed westerner watching him. Did Tyler survive? Or will Ovi always see Tyler watching over him? I guess we‘ll see how popular this one is and whether anyone wants to line up for a sequel.
It’s the usual Hollywood wish-fulfillment fantasy—a strong, handsome man rescuing the weak against great odds and with great carnage—but my favorite moment was a quiet one: Tyler hanging out at that streetside café in Dhaka while life swirls around him. In the midst of the Covid pandemic, that’s the greater wish-fulfillment fantasy.
Hemsworth on location practicing social nearness last year.