Chris Hemsworth delivers the goods in this old-school, action-driven, racially-mixed gun fighting actioner!
Well, the mainstream critics on Rotten Tomatoes and the politically correct cinema fashionistas of Screen Rant find Netflix’s Extraction (2020) “problematic,” “regressive,” and packed with “aimless violence.” Instead of celebrating the diverse, international cast tearing through one of the most gripping action movies made in the past 10 years, these reductionists see a white guy shooting a bunch of brown people. I suppose they missed Randeep Hooda’s stellar performance and his character’s equally impressive body count. Not to mention, he kicked Chris Hemsworth’s ass in a glorious chase/fight sequence involving guns, explosions, hand-to-hand combat, and a junkyard’s worth of crashed vehicles.
No, Chris Hemsworth, first-time director Sam Hargrave who was the stunt coordinator for the Avengers movies, and writer Joe Russo (one half of the Russo brothers) are all fulfilling a subconscious “white savior” fantasy. Imagine going through life and watching thoroughly entertaining movies with that unwittingly narrow frame of mind. Pity them, sure, but you don’t have to take them seriously.
Anyway, back to the mind-blowing, ultimate action masterpiece! Ignore the critics looking to find offense in everything from the shapes of clouds to Chris Hemsworth’s aftershave, Extraction has everything an action movie fan craves.
Ultimate Action-Driven Storytelling
Real action. I’m not talking about CGI battles with space bugs and blue sky beams here. I mean the type of raw action that’s driven by practical effects and bone-crushing stunts like we used to get in classics like First Blood (1982). One can only imagine the preparation, planning, and coordination it took to pull off that flawless 12-minute fight sequence or when Hemsworth efficiently took out about a dozen goons in a small apartment. From slit-tacular knife fights to cop car-flipping chases through a maze of cluttered back streets and alleyways, the action is intense and peppered throughout the efficient 116 minute runtime.
But it doesn’t have a story, they collectively whine after praising Mad Max: Fury Road (2015). Fundamentally, however, it follows a similar plot structure. We have a plan to get from point A to point B, point B is FUBAR, so we have to improvise our way to point C – well, back to point A in Fury Road’s case. Granted, there are some minor and somewhat predictable twists and turns along the way but just like George Miller’s opus, the no-frills script does what it needs to do to drive the action and develop the characters.
Chris Hemsworth as Tyler Rake
Chris Hemsworth’s Tyler is a standard issue, highly-trained mercenary with a death wish. Despite his boozing and pill-popping, Tyler is recruited to rescue the kidnapped son of an imprisoned crime boss from his rival who owns the police and pretty much everything else from Calcutta to Dhaka. The rival crime boss dispatches a motley crew of street gangs and Bangladeshi armed forces to stop Tyler and take back the kid. Things get complicated when the lieutenant of daddy crime boss gets involved as he attempts an extraction retraction.
Hemsworth delivers another outstanding performance as the troubled hero but the success of the movie, outside of the action scenes of course, rides on its primarily Indian cast. Daddy crime boss’ lieutenant, Saju, is played by Randeep Hooda who has built a notable Bollywood career in the crime and thriller genres. Saju has a fascinating character arc and he can throw down in close-quarters combat. From the big bad rival boss to the teen recruit he almost has thrown off a rooftop, the acting is rock solid and you actually care about what happens to them. Each international actor gets his or her moment to shine, which makes the outlandish cries of racism all the more bewildering.
But How Ultimate is it?
So unless you’re easily offended by old-school, action-driven storytelling and racially-mixed gun fighting, consider Extraction a must watch. Yes, some of the characters and story tropes are a bit shopworn but the filmmaking and editing style immerse you into the action.
Perhaps, they can finally retire the quick-cut editing crutch that too many filmmakers in our beloved genre have leaned on over the past 20 years. Long takes and continuous shots are making a comeback and they pay off quite well in Extraction. Strong recommend from this simple action aficionado who appreciates well developed characters and expertly coordinated knife fights.