Despite the producer Anthony Russo’s remarks that Extraction is “a hardcore movie with a soul”, this film couldn’t be more soulless if it tried. Sam Hargraves’ directorial debut covers for its generic plotting with scenes of brutish but banal violence.
Chris Hemsworth sulks his way through Dhaka as Tyler Rake, a former soldier-turned-mercenary with a high pain threshold but marked by personal tragedy. Through his black-market employers, he’s hired to retrieve a gangster’s kidnapped son (Rudhraksh Jaiswal). However, when the deals go south and the city is sealed off, Rakes must decide whether to sacrifice the boy or save him for no reward.
Scenes of painful dialogue and entirely predictable plot beats are peppered amongst a tedious slog of action. The film’s brutality jars stylistically as it flicks between gritty realism and cartoonish gratuity, perhaps emerging from the script’s comic-book source (Ciudad, written by Extraction’s screenwriter Joe Russo with Ande Park and Fernando León González).
The Russos move the clichés of corruption, gangsters and exoticism from the graphic novel’s South American setting and throw them down in India and Bangladesh instead. Though Priyanshu Painyuli’s “Pablo Escobar” hair-parting for his monotonous villain seems to have survived the trip. There is some suggestion that by being submerged in the underworld, it’s all murky morally. Yet, littered with flat, lazy stereotypes, it’s impossible to care about any ambiguity suggested in this context. It doesn’t have a scratch on Sicario.
The action is surprisingly bloody. Hemsworth uses everything from garden rakes (get it?) to articulated trucks to rack up the body count, basically murdering a path through the capital. Hargraves’ experience as a stuntman and coordinator clearly pays off here. The action sequences have visceral momentum, lurching and lunging between vehicle to vehicle, streets to roofs, in accomplished single takes reminiscent of Alfonso Cuarón. In the midst of the chase and fray, Extraction thrives in a kind of perverse, superficial way.
Pushing the camera into close quarters, toe-to-toe fights have bullets ricochet off armoured vests, knife slices give visible injury details and headshots pop. Yet all this action serves not to “illuminate characters and their choices or motivation” as Joe Russo has intoned, but instead to push past taboos (there’s repeated violence from and against children) and appear dirtier than most contemporary action thrillers. Extraction certainly looks ugly, with a horribly cheap, green-yellow sheen that bleaches the camera lens for most of the film.
Hemsworth, despite a hulking physique, muddies not only his face but the line delivery. Absolutely charisma-less, the actor just can’t sell the emotionally broken trope with which his protagonist is saddled. Even David Harbour doesn’t try and save the movie, let alone the rest of the forgettable cast.
Ultimately, Extraction is not a movie that uses action sequences to tell a story, but rather one which uses the story to tell action sequences. This poor debut has all the appeal of a broken nose.
Extraction is released digitally on demand on 24th April 2020.
Watch the trailer for Extraction here: