Extraction (2020) Review
HARD-HITTING BLOCKBUSTER ACTION
HEADS TO THE SMALL SCREEN REALM
Military action movies have been a prime staple within the action film genre. Exploring various branches of the military (army, navy, air force, SEALS, etc.), these movies are primarily focused (much like the genre itself) on action premise, relying on tried and true aesthetics of military action / violence to showcase the film’s narrative. While some are a bit nonsensical (i.e. going with the flow of the film’s premise), stories of war, secret missions, occupation, and tension between nations are these movies “bread and buttered”, making the effort to show the grizzled action (on all forms of the military branches) as well the espionage side of opposing government / nations on matters of military strength (i.e. to defend, to invade, or to hold their ground) against warring enemies or rival team members. Additionally, military action features have also weaved into other genres (drama and sci-fi) in order to expand upon its storytelling. Now, Netflix and director Sam Hargave present the latest military action feature with the movie Extraction. Does the film find its places with its military action film category or is it just a generic “run-of-the-mill” action pick that fails to deliver on its explosive action?
Ovi (Rudhraksh Jaiswal) is a kid who lives privileged life, but is lonely within is surroundings. His father is Mahajan (Pankaj Tripathi), a ruthless drug lord in India who’s currently residing in prison for his crimes, leaving parental overseeing to Saju (Randeep Hooda), his right-hand man, who has a family of his own to care for. One night, while spending time at club with some friends, Ovi is kidnapped by men who work Amir Asif (Priyanshu Painyuli), a major drug lord / criminal kingpin from Bangladesh, who’s looking to take advantage of Mahajan’s imprisonment, with plans to conquer his rival’s territory by holding his son as a hostage. Enter Tyler Rake (Chris Hemsworth), an Australian mercenary who wrestles with his grief issues and is pulled into duty when a team, led by Nik Khan (Goldshifteh Farahani), is hired by Mahajan’s people to retrieve Ovi; organizing a covert mission that sends the team into the belly of the beast, with Asif’s army of enforcers swarming the city. Traveling to Dhaka to get the boy, Tyler soon realizes that the job isn’t what it initially appears to be; finding himself (and his team) in mortal danger as plans go awry and double-crossing ensues as the hired merc plans to navigate through the hostile city to see his mission to the end and saving Ovi from anyone who gets in his way.
THE GOOD / THE BAD
If the opening paragraph sounds a bit familiar it is because I took it from my opening of my review for 2018’s Hunter Killer, which definitely sums up the theme introduction for this movie review as a well as this portion as well as this paragraph, which (again) speaks to what I want to covey. So….Growing up in the 90s, I remember seeing plenty (and I do mean plenty) of action movies, with most being released during the mid to late 90s. Perhaps one of the earliest ones that I could remember watching were Top Gun and Under Siege. While the latter was lesser known than the former, both movies were sort of might introduction to dramatized military movies, especially those within the action genre. From there, I saw loads of action movies (ranging from great to mediocre ones) that encompass several different military branches as well as genres, including the more sci-fi ones (Stargate and Starship Troopers), the espionage ones (The Sum of All Fears and Jason Bourne), the more historical war ones (War Horse or Saving Private Ryan) and more modern-day war themed movies (Act of Valor and 13 Hours: The Secret Solders of Benghazi) and many others. Altogether, while some may be better than others (in both movie critics and moviegoers’ eyes), military action are fundamentally essential within the action genre and warranted from Hollywood continuous cycle of chronicling militaristic action heroics (and tragedies) onto the silver screen.
This brings me back to talking about Extraction, the latest action film of 2020’s releases as well as an Netflix original movie. With the effects of “stay at home” and “self-quarantine” from the COVID-19 pandemic, I’ve begun to run out of mainstream feature films, especially the ones that I viewed in theaters before the pandemic started. So, I find myself looking for new movies to watch / review for my blog during this time. I do remember that Netflix released the trailer (via online) for the film titled Extraction, which toted actor Chris Hemsworth in the lead role as well as promising non-stop action nuances; something akin to a theatrical action blockbuster from major studios. Like many, the trailer did catch my attention and I was eager to see the film. As I’ve stated in the past, I do like some Netflix original TV series, but felt like there movies are a bit of a mixed bag (i.e. some good and some rejected prospects that were dumped by major studios for the streaming services audience). However, with Hemsworth in the star power and the movie’s premise resembling something like a theatrical release of a classic action popcorn flick, I went into Extraction with a better mindset than I usually do while watching Netflix movies. And what did I think of it? Well, it was pretty good. While the story is thin and lacking substance, Extraction delivers on its action premise through some exciting sequences of editing and cinematics as well as a believable lead in Hemsworth. It’s not the best action movie out there, but it definitely something to look at for those action movie junkies out there.
Extraction is directed by Sam Hargave, who makes his directorial debut several short films such as The Shoot, Game Changer, and Reign. Thus, Hargrave makes the jump from short movies to full-length features, with Extraction being his directorial debut in theatrical film. In this regard, Hargrave succeeds does provide a good entertainment of action aspects and sequences to the proceedings that’s quite “in-line” for what Extraction wants to be. While the movie isn’t without its flaws (more on that below), Hargrave’s first attempt in this movie foray world is quite admirable and definitely is much better than most first time feature length directors are able to accomplish. In addition, with his background as stuntman / stunt coordinator in many movies such as Avengers: Infinity War, Avengers: Endgame, and Atomic Blonde, Hargrave seems to know and understand the complexity and intricate workings of action stunts and set-pieces of which he heavy utilized in the film’s action pieces. Speaking of action, Extraction definitely boasts plenty of that, with Hargrave focusing on the gritty and intense level of military action and using the aspect to its fullest extent. If you’re looking for action, you’ll won’t be disappointed in this movie as it has it all…. gun fights, car chases, hand-to-hand combat. It’s all there and has a bombardment of heightened intensity that feels quite ramped up; something that is akin to the grittiness of Max Payne, The Raid: Redemption, and a little bit of John Wick. Its in these moments of which the movie (and Hargrave’s talents) come alive and really do have the gripping action sequences that the film’s movie trailer was showcasing. As to be expected, the movie is rated R for a reason and the film’s action definitely speaks to that rating; providing plenty of high-stakes action along the way. Even looking beyond that notion, Hargrave delivers a solid (yet slightly flawed / straight forward) narrative that adheres to the classic storytelling nuances of military action features. Kind of remind me a tad like Sicario (in a way).
Of its overall presentation, Extraction is a solid tried and true action feature that carries the theatrical presentation weigh for a gritty military action endeavor of recent projects. As mentioned, the film’s action is the highlight of the movie and is made fully realized with some terrific and explosive sequences that are tightly edited and performed beautifully. One entire action sequence as a feeling of a “one-shot” take by dropping us (the viewers) on a non-stop scene of action, danger, and intensity for Rake to overcome, which provides some gripping cinematic action that’s worthy of a blockbuster treatment. Thus, the efforts made by Newton Thomas Sigel (cinematography) and Ruthie Aslan and Peter B. Ellis (film editing) as well as the choreography / various stuntman of all these scenes should be highly commended for making Extraction’s action moments feel enticing, dangerous, and overall thrilling to watch. Plus, the film’s location, production designs, and set decorations also feel appropriately well-done; depicting an urban Indian cityscape that feels claustrophobic and intricately maze-like design helps build tension in the feature’s story. Lastly, the film’s score, which was composed by Alex Belcher and Henry Jackman, delivers a pulse-pounding movie soundtrack that definitely speaks to many of the film’s intense moments as well as few softer melodies during character dialogue scenes.
The are a few problems that I had with Extraction, which felt like it was a little bit hollow in certain areas and not fully fleshing out the feature’s narrative as much as it could’ve been. How so? Well, the main problem comes down to two aspects, which is in Hargrave’s direction and in the script handling of the movie. While I do certainly praise Hargrave’s efforts (as mentioned above) and makes the feature standout with its intense action sequences, the movie struggles to find a “happy medium” in a balance of action versus story / characters. Maybe its because of the director’s inexperience to handle such projects (again, this is his first full-length film), so the decision to take action over story is quite crystal clear and possibly hinders the feature from reaching its potential. Additionally, the second act of Extraction feels the most sluggish and unappealing. I do get what Hargrave wanted to achieve from this point of explaining certain characters (i.e. Rake and Ovi), but it ultimately backfires and feels quite boring, especially considering Extraction’s first and third act. As a whole, if you look at other rescue mission movies like All the Money in the World, Man on Fire, Ransom, and Taken, Extraction comes up a little bit short on its substance; presenting a very straightforward tale that has plenty of explosive action, but lacks a reason for us (the viewers) to invest in these characters and why they are doing what they are doing.
As for the script handling, which was penned by Joe Russo (yes, the same Joe Russo of the Joe / Anthony Russo brothers that gave viewers Community and several of the MCU superhero blockbusters), Extraction’s narrative is quite straightforward and doesn’t really deviate from a predictable projected path. In truth, the story is quite simply, which brings a lot of hollowness to the proceedings; lacking substance to an action movie. Of course, the movie doesn’t present itself to be anything more than an intense action flick, so it sort of gets a pass on that regard. Still, the movie’s narrative is perhaps the weakest element of the film. Also, there are a few parts of the feature’s story that needed to be fleshed out, including Ovi Sr’s past (i.e why is he in jail? His relationship with his son?) as well as a few aspects in Amir’s background than just a simplistic ruthless baddie, which can be quite generic. There’s also the addition of a side character (a young kid that gets entangled in Asif’s ways), but ultimately ends up getting the short end of the stick. Yes, some of this character’s scenes are effective in showing how villainous Asif is (and the harsh environment that they live in), but the character could’ve been cut for the film’s final cut and nothing really would’ve changed; rendering the character rather a moot point.
The cast in Extraction is effective good, but, while the talents behind them are relatively good and solid in their various roles, their characters feel rather stock-like and stereotypical military action endeavor. Leading the charge in the movie as the “big-ticketed” star of the project is actor Chris Hemsworth as central main protagonist character of Tyler Rake. Hemsworth known for his roles as Thor in the Marvel Cinematic Universe as well as in 12 Strong, Rush, and Men in Black: International, certainly greats the weight of the film on his shoulders; acting as both the star power of Extraction as well as the leading man in the story. In both regards, Hemsworth succeeds; making his character of Tyler Rake a believable character of the strong / silent type. Physically, Hemsworth is rock solid in the role too; providing stoic / battle-hardened mercenary military man that has no time for no-nonsense. There is some character development in Rake’s build (most in his past) and Hemsworth sells it, but the material that’s given to him is quite dynamic. Thus, he does what he can with it, which definitely works for Extraction. Some viewers might argue that Hargrave doesn’t utilize Hemsworth’s comedic timing (as Extraction does little in the way of comedic levity), but I think that would distract from the overall gravitas of the intense action nuances. Thus, whether you agree with that or not, Hemsworth was perfect as Tyler Rake and definitely is another solid project for the Aussie actor body of work as a leading man.
In more secondary characters roles, actor Randeep Hooda (Highway and Beeba Boys) does a good job in the role of Saju, a former special forces operative who works for Ovi Mahajan Sr. / protector of Ovi Jr. Like Hemsworth’s Rake, the character of Saju is more of a “physical” role, which means that there isn’t much depth provide for Hooda to play around with. Thus, the actor makes the role memorable by ways and means of how he interacts with situations (much like Hemsworth) and provides a solid action character that is trying to do what is necessary to protect his family. Likewise, young actor Rudhraksh Jaiswal (Noor and Mahabharat) as Ovi Mahajan Jr. was effectively good in the role. Like many “rescuing mission” narratives, the kidnaped individual usually gets the least character development (i.e. All the Money in the World and Ransom) and while that maybe true with Ovi Jr. in this movie, Jaiswal still pulls off a convincing (and likeable) performance in the role. Plus, his interaction with both Hemsworth and Hooda are equally good throughout.
Behind them, actress Goldshifteh Farahani (Body of Lies and Paterson) and actor David Harbour (Hellboy and Stranger Things) are respectfully good in their supporting character roles of Niki Khan, the head of Rake’s mercenary team, and Gaspar, a special operative in Dhaka who lends a hand to Rake. Together, both Farahani and Harbour certainly do leave a lasting impression on their characters, even though they might boil down to the stereotypical caricatures of a military action feature (i.e. a skilled no-nonsense team leader and a somewhat debonair yet experienced mercenary handler. The rest of the cast, including actor Pankaj Tripathi (Newton and Stree) as Indian crime lord / father of Ovi Jr., Ovi Mahajan Sr., actor Priyanshu Painyuli (Soulmates and The Bhai) as Ovi Sr.’s rival / Bangladeshi crime, lord Amir Asif, and young actor Suraj Rikame (making his acting debut) as Farhad, a young local boy who turns henchmen of Asif, are in minor support characters roles in the movie that are relatively good in their respective acting talents, but fall into the generic characters of story. None of them are bad, but could’ve been easily fleshed out / expanded upon. As a side-note, Hargrave himself makes a small cameo-like appearance in the movie as the character named Gaetan.
Tyler Rake heads into the “belly of the beast” as his rescue mission to find a kidnapped boy proves to be his toughest mission yet in the movie Extraction. Director Sam Hargrave feature-length directorial debut feature takes the military action rescue mission plot device and provides plenty of aesthetics and nuances to quench an intense entertainment experience. While the feature does struggle to find a proper balance between action and story (due to a thinly written narrative) as well as character development / plot backstories, the feature does succeed in giving the feature a extra juice of pure action glee through the film’s direction (to a certain degree) as well as in the film’s editing, cinematics, and solid performances from Hemsworth and Hooda. Personally, I liked this movie. Yes, there were a few parts that could’ve been easily expanded and I felt that some of the unsaid story elements were distracting, but I felt the Hargrave’s movie held its own and is definitely worth a watch. Thus, my recommendation for this film is a favorable “recommended” one, especially to fans of the action movie genre as well as fans of Hemsworth’s work. In the end, while it isn’t the “be-all-to-end-all” of action film endeavors, Extraction is fun (and intense) distraction of pure adrenaline entertainment that works effectively if you take the project for what it is…..a solid action flick in movie escapism.
3.9 Out of 5 (Recommended)
Released On: April 24th, 2020
Reviewed On: April 27th, 2020
Extraction is 116 minutes long and is rated R for strong bloody violence throughout, language, and brief drug usage