Dir: Sam Hargrave. Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Rudraksh Jaiswal, Randeep Hooda, Golshifteh Farahani, Priyanshu Painyuli, David Harbour. 18 cert, 103 mins.
Extraction belongs to an irrepressible genre of cinema: that of the action thriller with its gun-toting white man sent to rampage through exotic locales. This new entry, released on Netflix, comes from the pen of Joe Russo, best known for the Marvel blockbusters that he directed with his brother Anthony, including Avengers: Endgame. It’s an adaptation of his own graphic novel Ciudad, though the setting has shifted from South America to Central Asia – tellingly, with few repercussions to the story. Bangladesh now has its “very own Pablo Escobar”, with his penchant for cutting off fingers and unbuttoned shirts paired with stacks of gold chains. It’s a vision of foreign brutality treated as wholly interchangeable, without the weight of political or social consciousness.
In Mumbai, a schoolboy (Rudraksh Jaiswal) languishes in stately isolation, surrounded by the chrome, glass, and marble of his father’s ultra-minimalist home. After he’s suddenly abducted from outside a local nightclub, it’s revealed that he’s the son of India’s most prominent drug lord. His kidnappers work for Bangladesh’s most prominent drug lord, Amir Asif (Priyanshu Painyuli). Presumably, this is just business as usual. A black market mercenary, Tyler Rake (Chris Hemsworth), is called in to extract the kid – the title really is that on the nose – from Amir’s base of operations in Dhaka. The rescue is a breeze, but leaving the city proves trickier. Amir has sway over both the police and the army, so every bridge and road out has been blocked.
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The stage is set for all the usual ambushes, showdowns, and betrayals. Admittedly, there’s some ingenuity in how director Sam Hargrave handles the material. Like John Wick’s Chad Stahelski and David Leitch before him, he’s a stunt coordinator-turned-director, having served as Chris Evans’s stunt double for several of his appearances as Captain America. And, like his predecessors, he shows a clear desire to plunge his audiences right into the heart of the action. In an 11-minute sequence made to look like a single, unbroken take, we follow Tyler as he darts in and out of tenement apartments and scurries along rooftops. The camera hovers around him like a particularly determined housefly.
While Extraction certainly takes advantage of Hemsworth’s godlike physique, it wastes the boyish charm that made his presence in Thor: Ragnarok and Ghostbusters so likeable. He might play up his Australian origins (it’s all “fackin’ this, bloody fackin’ that, bro!”), he otherwise fits neatly into the role of reformed brute: stiff and soulless until his heart is melted by the child he’s sworn to protect.
This is just another testosterone-charged, heroic fantasy – so much so that the film’s only prominent female character, Golshifteh Farahani’s arms dealer, is made to act out a near-parody of masculinity. In one scene, she idly plays with two silver, weighted balls. In another, she caresses a missile launcher, the most phallic of weapons. Hargrave might have envisioned Extraction as the next John Wick or Atomic Blonde, but his film can’t help but fall in line with all the old conventions.