Chris Hemsworth Delivers Beyond the Plot in Action-Packed ‘Extraction’
Chris Hemsworth in “Extraction” is the equivalent of an expensive car purchased by someone who has the cash but not the necessity. Hemsworth is efficient and looks the part, dropping Thor’s hammer to rampage through expensive action sequences with many a good camera angle. But when the dust clears and bullet-riddled corpses are dragged away the film is left a bit empty-handed. This Netflix original, culled from a graphic novel, is another walk down action plot lane with the idea of the one man army. Hemsworth has joined the muscled ranks of stars who onscreen do what entire platoons can’t. It’s not an unworthy tradition to uphold if the script is solid.
There’s trouble brewing in the Asian drug underworld. An imprisoned Indian gangster, Ovi Mahajan Sr. (Pankaj Tripathi) is feuding with a younger upstart from Bangladesh, Amir Asif (Priyanshu Painyuli). Asif decides to send some goons to kidnap Mahajan’s son, Ovi Jr. (Rudhraksh Jaiswal) and keep him somewhere in Dhaka, Bangladesh. One of Mahajan’s henchmen, Saju (Randeep Hooda) decides to enlist a band of mercenaries to get Ovi back. Into the picture comes Tyler Rake (Hemsworth), a typically depressed yet skilled soldier of fortune called in by fellow mercenary Nik (Golshifteh Farahani) to take on the gig. Tyler is soon moving around Dhaka, breaking necks and shooting down thugs until he finds Ovi. But the original deal with Mahajan is soon jeopardized and Tyler finds himself having to maneuver snipers, helicopters and ruthless street hoods to get Ovi out alive.
There is absolutely no need to ponder, dissect or analyze the plot of “Extraction,” it exists as an excuse for the action. Director Sam Hargrave is an expert at the physical side of genre filmmaking because he worked on the stunts for major films like “Avengers: Endgame” and “The Hunger Games.” On the level of exhilarating sequences with the smell of burning fuel Hargrave more than delivers. “Extraction” will certainly fulfill the needs of audience members seeking some sweaty scenes where Hemsworth brawls with several Indian gangsters, pounds a guy’s face into a rake and somehow gets up after being slammed by a speeding car. Before all that Tyler is introduced to us with a fittingly masculine scene in Australia’s The Kimberley where he perfectly dives feet first from an immensely high cliff into a lake. He doesn’t emerge because mercenaries have the ability to sit cross-legged underwater and meditate. Hargrave’s best sequence is a chase through Dhaka complete with multiple car crashes, shootings and rooftop leaps done in one unbroken shot, or it’s pulled off to seem that way. Marvel regular Hemsworth never looks out of place in any of it, pulling off a simpler version of the rugged, cool under fire attitude he brings to the “Thor” movies. It’s a pity the film is so male-dominated however and a great actress like Iran’s Golshifteh Farahani, who looks like she could be a great action persona, is reduced to merely popping in for a few scenes. She’s stuck back at home base for most of the movie, waiting for Tyler to call, and by the end runs around holding a rifle aloft, but never getting a moment deserving of an actress who has worked with cinema greats like Asghar Farhadi and Jim Jarmusch. You also have to wonder why only the white guy is trusted with going deep into Dhaka for the extraction, and not the Persian who just but sheer appearance would draw less attention. But she didn’t play Thor, so she doesn’t get top billing. Even Randeep Hooda as Saju gets at least one close up where he snaps his nose back into place.
But what are we left with aside from the pounding action? “Extraction” is produced by Anthony and Joe Russo, who together with a much more gargantuan budget made better films like the last two “Avengers” epics. Those entertainments featured both massive special effects and stories with an almost classical tone in their narratives about superheroes and aspiring galactic overlords. The screenplay for “Extraction” is by Joe Russo and is based on his graphic novel “Ciudad,” which is set in Ciudad del Este, Paraguay. As a movie it’s a simpler story than Iron Man versus Thanos and by comparison is very rushed and choppy. As a character Tyler is another one of those depressed, militaristic types hooked on Oxycontin. It’s a cliché that drags on without an explanation until he has a heart to heart with Ovi one night and reveals information about a young son he lost. But there’s no sense he and Ovi are actually bonding, and we are given little reason to care if they make it out or not.
Everyone in this film is reduced to quick, shallow clichés. Ovi’s father appears for one scene in the beginning to demand Saju do something about his disappeared son and then never reappears. Amir Asif sits around golden chairs (“the Pablo Escobar of India”) and issues orders but gives no clear reason for his own scheme. What’s his vendetta with Ovi Sr.? They’re just doing what gangsters do apparently. Who even runs Tyler’s mercenary group? Who pays the bills and disperses wages? There is the feeling of a missing backstory here. Tyler just happens to have a friend in Dhaka, Gaspar (David Harbour), conveniently the only other white guy in the city, who has a wife we never see and has no purpose other than to provide a sudden twist half-way through the plot. The deal to get Ovi back falls apart because Ovi Sr. refuses to pay. Why hire mercenaries to get your kid and not just pay them? It’s never clear. We almost welcome the final, over the top standoff on a bridge where helicopters erupt and crash, a sniper in a geographically unclear spot pulls off a few “American Sniper”-style hits, and Hemsworth, inevitably wounded, gets to do that obligatory final, heroic pose with choral music on the soundtrack.
Take your pick, there are plenty of action films with sillier plots that work very well because they make sense within their own world. Even another recent Netflix fireworks fest, Michael Bay’s “6 Underground,” had enough chutzpah in its sheer scale to make you (momentarily) forget about the thin story. “Extracted” is best recommended for those who are happy with nothing but the action itself. It can’t be denied this is a movie entertaining on a pure level of blood, sweat and fractured noses. Too bad that’s all there is to it.
“Extraction” begins streaming April 24 on Netflix.