Movie Review – Extraction (2020)
Editor’s note: The views and opinions expressed in this review are solely those of Marlon Wallace and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of WBOC.
Joe Russo is the co-director of Avengers: Endgame (2019), the highest-grossing film in the world. It made $2.797 billion globally. He even made a cameo in that film as a grieving gay man. It was the fourth comic-book film that he made for Marvel Studios. Clearly, he has an interest in comic books, so much so that he helped to create an actual, comic book in 2014 called Ciudad. That comic was about a mercenary who helps to rescue a girl in Paraguay. Russo decided to adapt that comic into a screenplay that changes the gender of one character and the country where it’s set. As other critics have indicated, Russo probably changed those details in part because if not, the comparison to Man on Fire (2004) might be made. Unfortunately, those comparisons would be made anyway. Yet, Man on Fire isn’t the film that came to my mind, even though the premise is similar. Given the locale, what came to my mind are a myriad of Bollywood action flicks.
This film is set in India, the home of Bollywood. So many actions films have come out of there and even recently that they can’t be ignored or not invoked while watching this effort. Bollywood action films like the recent Baaghi 3 (2020) embrace either a humor, a campy nature, a sexiness or musicality that this film absolutely lacks. Therefore, this film is more like Man on Fire in that it is a more deadly serious narrative. Taking that tone and that tact is fine, if the point is to delve into a topic or character in a more serious way. Russo was a producer for 21 Bridges (2019), which was a more serious, action film, but at the core of it was a story about police corruption. It wasn’t that greatly developed, but at least it was something. This film allegedly has the trauma of child loss, which sadly isn’t greatly developed or really developed much at all either.
Chris Hemsworth (Thor: Ragnarok and Ghostbusters) stars as Tyler Rake, a mercenary from Australia who seems to have a possible substance abuse problem. He’s a solider-for-hire. He’s a guy who was highly trained in the military and who now uses his advanced skills for money. He was married with a child. Unfortunately, his wife left him after his son died. Now, he lives a mostly lonely life in Kimberley, Australia.
Hemsworth has done well, exercising not his physical muscles in film but his comedic muscles. He’s even seen more success doing a more comedic version of his super-hero persona in the Marvel Studios movies. You see a little bit of that comedic presence and charm early when Tyler makes a joke about his chicken roommate, but that quickly goes and this film becomes all about Hemsworth being serious, as Tyler grapples with the trauma of child loss. He’s a man with a lot of literal scars from his mercenary work, which perhaps required little ethics. He now has a possible death wish. Unfortunately, Russo as a writer does the bare minimum required to establish that Tyler is dealing with those things and not much to go any further.
Randeep Hooda (Baaghi 2 and Sultan) co-stars as Saju, a guy who seems like a mercenary too. Only, he’s from India and he works for a powerful criminal who is in prison but still able to control some kind of business or wealthy organization in Mumbai. Saju has a wife and son too, but they’re safe and with him. However, the man who is his boss easily threatens them in order to force Saju to do whatever he wants. Unfortunately, Russo’s script tries to get us to empathize or sympathize with Saju by showing scenes of him calling his son and having them say they love each other, but a bit more back-story on this guy and how he came to be involved with this criminal would have been appreciated.
The inciting incident is when the son of Saju’s boss gets kidnapped. Saju is forced to put together a team to get the son back. However, the man who did the kidnapping is a brutal kingpin in Dhaka, Bangladesh, which is India’s neighboring country. This kingpin has control of the police in that city. Therefore, Saju has to assemble a really skilled team.
What’s odd though is that the team is outsourced. It’s odd that Saju’s boss wouldn’t already have men in his employ who could accomplish this mission or at least know of Indian men who are so skilled. What’s even more odd is that Saju would then double-cross the team he assembles. It’s also odd and a bit dumb to think that when he did double-cross that team that that wouldn’t put the boss’ son in just as much danger. Given Saju’s skills himself, why he wasn’t the leader of this mission from the beginning seems odd. The film feels like it has to contrive a reason to have Tyler in the middle of this action and that contrivance doesn’t work.
Rudhraksh Jaiswal also co-stars as Ovi Mahajan, the teenage boy who gets kidnapped and is then chased and dragged around from one action scene to another. He starts off as a boy who obviously comes from wealth but who is shy about things like talking to a pretty girl. He also sneaks off with his friend to smoke marijuana. When he’s pulled into this crazy situation where it’s kill-or-be-killed, obviously the effect that it has on him is something that one would assume would be explored. There’s an aspect about him going from shy to bravery or maybe how this situation toughens him or changes his view of his father or the world, but the film really doesn’t take time to delve into that either.
Priyanshu Painyuli plays Amir Asif, the aforementioned kingpin who has Ovi kidnapped. His motives for doing so aren’t exactly clear. It seems like he wants a ransom, but it could also be revenge for something, given how intensely he escalates everything. However, it’s shown that he recruits teenagers and children as part of his criminal organization. He particularly threatens and grooms one teenage boy named Farhad, played by Suraj Rikame. It becomes a quasi, father-son relationship. Somehow, one would think it would loop back to the relationship between Tyler and Ovi and stand in contrast. By the end, Ovi doesn’t want to become a brutal killer, whereas Farhad does, which can be extrapolated. But the film doesn’t underscore why that’s the case.
Director Sam Hargrave is a stunt coordinator who has worked in Hollywood for over 15 years. He has been the stunt coordinator for a few of Marvel Studios’ films, including Avengers: Endgame. He was in fact the stunt double for the character of Captain America. He was also the Second Unit Director for a few of those Marvel movies, so he’s very successful and very knowledgeable when it comes to stunt-work and the crafting of action scenes. As a result, when it comes to the action scenes here, there are extremely well-done. The final action scene does drag for a while and gets to be really repetitive, especially since the climax of that final action scene is spoiled at the top of the film.
Most will walk away from this film talking about one action scene in particular, the veritable centerpiece scene. In the middle of this film, there is an action sequence that is essentially a car chase. That car chase is interrupted by a foot chase and fight sequence in an apartment building. Yet, it continues into another truck chase. All in all, it’s a sequence that’s a little over 10 minutes in length. What’s significant about it is that it’s a sequence that’s edited and shot to seem like one, continuous take.
Films like Birdman (2014) and 1917 (2019) have won Oscars for their cinematography where both their cinematography consisted of making it seem like their one, continuous take. Incorporating complicated, more amplified and faster stunts and fight choreography is the wrinkle that Hargrave wants to inject here. Hargrave has work connections to films like John Wick (2014) and Atomic Blonde (2017). It’s probably not surprising that the centerpiece scene here feels like it was ripped out of John Wick and Atomic Blonde. It’s energetic and propulsive. The way that the camera weaves and swirls with equal energy and propulsion is clever and great. It provides a crazy, frenetic, nonstop feeling. It still doesn’t top something like The Raid: Redemption (2011), which also came to mind watching this, but this film was exciting enough.
Rated R for strong bloody violence, language and brief drug use.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 57 mins.
Available on Netflix.