April 24, 2020
by Carla Hay
Directed by Sam Hargrave
Culture Representation: Taking place in Bangladesh and briefly in Australia and India, the action flick “Extraction” has a predominantly Indian/Bangladeshi cast of characters mostly representing the criminal underworld, with the main character as an Australian visitor serving a dual purpose of being a mercenary and a “white savior.”
Culture Clash: The Australian mercenary goes on a mission in Bangladesh to rescue an Indian drug lord’s kidnapped teenage son, who was abducted because of his father’s feud with a Bangladeshi drug lord.
Culture Audience: “Extraction” will appeal mostly to Chris Hemsworth fans and people who like high-octane, bloody action without much character development.
At this point in Chris Hemsworth’s career (he’s best known for playing Thor in several Marvel superhero movies), he might as well just lean in to being an action hero, since that’s the persona that seems to get the best reaction for him from movie audiences. Hemsworth’s starring roles in serious awards-bait dramas (2013’s “Rush” and 2015’s “In the Heart of the Sea”) have fallen flat. And even though he has a great sense of humor in several of his movies that call for comedic moments, he’s only chosen supporting roles so far for any comedy films that he does.
“Extraction” (not to be confused with the 2015 action flick “Extraction,” starring Bruce Willis) reunites Hemsworth with several key members of the team behind “Avengers: Endgame” and “Avengers: Infinity War”—co-director/co-screenwriter Joe Russo (who wrote the “Extraction” screenplay) and stunt coordinator Sam Hargrave, who makes his feature-film directorial debut with “Extraction.” Joe Russo and his brother Anthony Russo (who co-directed the aforementioned “Avengers” sequels) and Hemsworth are among the producers of “Extraction,” which stars Hemsworth as mercenary Tyler Rake.
It’s a movie that might get compared to “John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum” (another bloody and violent mercenary movie that’s set in Asia and directed by an American with a stunt coordinator background), but “John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum” is a far superior movie, in terms of screenplay and character development. “Extraction” is based on the 2014 graphic novel “Ciudad” (co-written by Ande Parks, Joe Russo and Anthony Russo), which takes place in Ciudad del Este, Venezuela. In “Ciudad,” the Tyler Rake character has to rescue a kidnapped adult daughter of a Brazilian crime lord.
Most of the story in “Extraction” takes place over just two days, but a lot of action and killings are packed in that short period of time. And yet, with all the murder and mayhem that takes place—a lot of it on public streets—the police either don’t show up or they’re relegated to being ineffectual extras. Yes, it’s that kind of movie.
The plot for “Extraction” is very basic: Two rival drug lords—Ovi Mahajan Sr. (played by Pankaj Tripathi) from India and Amir Asif (played by Priyanshu Painyuli) from Bangladesh—are the top drug lords in their respective countries. However, Ovi Sr. is in Mumbai Central Prison, and has entrusted his right-hand man Saju (played by Randeep Hooda) to take care of his 14-year-old son Ovi Mahajan Jr. (played by Rudhraksh Jaiswal). Ovi Jr.’s mother is not mentioned in this very male-centric movie, which has only two women with speaking roles.
When Ovi Jr. gets kidnapped in the back alley of a teen nightclub, Ovi Sr. blames Saju and demands that Saju find Ovi Jr., or else Ovi Sr. will have Saju’s young son killed. Saju knows someone who can get the job of finding and rescuing Ovi Jr., but he knows that this mercenary is out of Ovi Sr.’s price range.
That mercenary is Tyler Rake (played by Hemsworth), who’s tracked down in the Kimberley, Australia, where he’s a heavy drinker and opioid pill-popper who lives alone in a messy, ramshackle abode. Tyler also likes to dive off of cliffs and hold his breath underwater for as long as he can while sitting cross-legged, as if he’s doing a combination of a meditation and a daredevil death wish. Viewers find out later in the story why Tyler (whose name isn’t revealed until halfway through the film) is such an emotionally damaged and reckless soul. (It’s the most cliché and over-used reason for lone-wolf antiheroes in action flicks.)
The person who goes to Australia to find out if Tyler will take the assignment is Iranian arms dealer Nik Khan (played by Golshifteh Farahani), who’s written as a glamorous badass who doesn’t reveal much of a personality during the entire movie. It’s a very token female character without any depth or backstory. Fortunately, the movie doesn’t fall into the predictable cliché of making her the love interest (which would be too distracting to the single-minded brutal mission in this movie), although the way that Nik and Tyler sometimes eye each other hints that there might be some sexual tension between them.
Nik spends a lot of time communicating with Tyler remotely, since she’s in a room with colleagues waiting to receive an electronic payment for Tyler’s services, although later Nik finally gets in on some of the physical fight action, where she’s the only woman. The only other woman to have a speaking role in the movie is Saju’s spouse Neysa (played by Neha Mahajan), a small supporting role that is very much the stereotypical “worried wife at home” character that’s seen all too often in action movies.
The opening scene of “Extraction” shows a very bloody Tyler shooting at people with a military gun on a highway bridge with abandoned cars. His injuries are so severe that it looks like he’s ready to pass our or die at any moment. The movie then switches to a flashback to two days earlier, which is when the kidnapping of Ovi Jr. took place in India, and the teenager was then taken to Dhaka, Bangladesh.
It isn’t long before Tyler finds Ovi Jr. and rescues him, in an unrealistic manner of Tyler violently taking down the 10 or so thugs who were tasked with guarding the kidnapped boy in a run-down building. Tyler has some assistance from a remote sniper named Gaetan (played by “Extraction” director Hargrave) and later from an old pal named Gaspar (played by David Harbour), who lets Tyler and Ovi Jr. spends some time hiding out at his place. Saju is also looking to rescue Ovi Jr., who has to make a decision to either go with Saju or stay with Tyler, for reasons what are explained in the movie.
One of the best scenes in the movie is a long sequence of Tyler and Ovi Jr. escaping in a thrilling and very suspenseful car chase. The cinematography from Newton Thomas Sigel is top-notch in that scene. But in other scenes where it’s just shootout after bloody shootout, the violence becomes a little too repetitive and unoriginal. And, of course, there’s a predictable double-cross in the film that astute viewers can see coming long before it happens.
The only scene in the movie where there’s any emotional vulnerability from the adults involved in these killing sprees is the scene were Tyler opens up about his past to Ovi Jr., who spends most of the movie looking terrified. Ovi eventually learns to trust Tyler, and in the course of just two days, Ovi apparently becomes so emotionally attached to this man that he just met that he starts to see Tyler as sort of a father figure.
In a scene where Ovi and Tyler are at Gaspar’s place, Ovi looks at Tyler in awe and asks Tyler why he’s so brave and if he’s ever had to kill people. This is after Ovi Jr. saw some of the carnage that Tyler caused, so clearly this is a kid who doesn’t have common sense if he’s wondering at this point if Tyler kills people. Ovi Jr. is supposed to be the son of a high-ranking drug lord, but he isn’t very “street smart.” In another scene where there’s a big shootout with several abandoned cars on a bridge, Ovi Jr. hides behind a car on the bridge that’s on fire, as if he doesn’t realize that the car could explode at any minute.
There’s a bit of a “white savior” mentality to “Extraction” that might be off-putting to some people. And there are a few scenes of children getting murdered, such as when one of Amir’s thugs throws one of Amir’s underage drug runners off of a roof, which might be too disturbing to watch for sensitive or young viewers. And some of the teenagers in Amir’s gang are sent to do battle with the adults, and let’s just say that things happen, and Tyler ends up calling them “the Goonies from hell.”
The chief villain Amir is written as someone who sends his minions to do his dirty work for him, and he doesn’t talk much in the film. He’s a stereotypical cold-blooded criminal, but there was a missed opportunity for screenwriter Joe Russo to give this character more of a personality. It certainly would’ve made “Extraction” more interesting.
And because almost all the main characters in the movie act like killing machines, there’s almost a video-game quality to “Extraction” that’s disappointing for a feature film that could have been better. The ending of “Extraction” hints that there could be a sequel. If there is a follow-up movie, let’s hope that more attention is paid to developing main characters that people will care about more, instead of making the action sequences the only memorable things about the film.
Netflix premiered “Extraction” on April 24, 2020.