A child has been kidnapped. Specifically, Ovi Mahajan Jr. (played by Rudhraksh Jaiswal), the son of India's most famous gangster, has been kidnapped by Bangladesh's most prolific gangster, Amir Asif (Priyanshu Painyuli). Ovi's father wants his son back, but retrieving the child won't be easy. He'll need to hire somebody to come in and take back Ovi. This is where Tyler Rake (Chris Hemsworth) comes in. A mercenary who lives in a shack with his chickens in Australia, Rake is grizzled, lethal and only here for the money. Thus, a well-paying operation like this one captures his attention. Tyler proceeds to enter Dhaka, Bangladesh, and snags the kid but a new problem emerges: Quickly, Asif has the entire city of Dhaka locked down and looking for Tyler. It's gonna take a miracle for him and Ovo to leave the city alive.
Above all else, “Extraction” exemplifies how gunfire fights just aren't as interesting cinematically as other forms of fighting. Whenever Rake's confrontations with legions of henchman and police officers boil down to Rake shooting people with a gun, it's just not very exciting and gets repetitive quite quickly. Anybody could be doing these maneuvers with a gun - there's nothing unique to it. On the other hand, the hand-to-hand combat stuff Rake dishes out is much more interesting to watch and is imbued with a more distinct personality. A scene where Rake fights a squad of malicious children is a great example of this: He’s tossing the rage-filled youngsters around in a manner that's meant to ensure they don't harm him while also clearly leaving no long-term injuries on the kids.
That underlying motivation lends the scene so much more fun and personality than any of the generic gunfights. More grisly, but no less inventive, is anytime Rake is forced to use the objects around him to fight off adult henchman working for Asif. It's so much fun to see Rake use whatever's lying around to fight off antagonists. Best of all, in terms of “Extraction's” action, is an extended car-chase and foot-chase sequence that goes for 11 minutes and is meant to look like it's captured in the span of a single take. Though it overstays its welcome a bit in terms of length, it's still an impressively executed sequence. Particularly noteworthy is how the camerawork remains consistently cogent even in the most chaotic parts of the sequence. Kudos to director Sam Hargrave for keeping the mayhem visible rather than resorting to “shaky cam” as a cheap source of disorientation.
Hemsworth takes on a far more grim role than he has in his previous blockbuster endeavors. On paper, that doesn't sound great considering Hemsworth excels as a wacky comedic performer in projects like “Thor: Ragnarok” and “Ghostbusters.” While there are times Hemsworth struggles to pull off this persona, for the most part he does better-than-expected work commanding a believably detached aura. It helps that Hemsworth decides to lean into the idea of Tyler Rake being a haunted figure. He's not just jaded or crotchety. He's someone so disturbed by past trauma that he's practically sleepwalking through parts of his life that aren't dedicated to killing people.
The best action beats in “Extraction” excel due to more specifically rendered details. The film’s best parts are also it's most unique. Unfortunately, screenwriter Joe Russo (delivering his first feature film writing credit since “Welcome to Collinwood” nearly 20 years ago) struggles to deliver truly distinct creations on a number of fronts. For one, the villains are a wash, which is the biggest disappointment for any action movie. It's commendable that Russo didn't go the tired route of giving Asif and Rake some old score to settle,k but the primary protagonist and antagonist of “Extraction” are still too detached from one another. This renders scenes centered only on Asif superfluous, and doesn't give Rake much beyond avoiding the bullets that are flying in his direction.
Worse is how Russo's script doesn't give Ovi much of a personality beyond him playing the piano when he's nervous. A mid-movie scene has Ovi note that both Rake and his father view him as just an object. It's a sad moment but, unfortunately, “Extraction” doesn't seem to view Ovi as much more than that either, considering they don't give his character much of a personality. It also must be said that “Extraction's” depiction of both Bangladesh and India is extremely tired and cliche-ridden, right down to how both locations are awash in garish yellow grading. On the other hand, Russo's screenplay is at least a tightly paced creation (yay for this thing running under two hours with credits) and gives “Paterson” actor Golshifteh Farahani a chance to strut her action-movie chops. Enough of “Extraction” worked for me to make it an action-movie distraction. However, enough of it also worked that I became frequently frustrated whenever it opted for less-creative choices in its action scenes and storytelling.
Douglas Laman is a film critic, who, when not watching movies, attends Collin College, hangs out with friends … and watches movies. For more of his work and ramblings, visit his website, landofthenerds.blogspot.com. The views and opinions expressed here are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of Texoma Marketing and Media Group.