By: AC Recio
After a decade of critically acclaimed and commercially successful superhero movies, action movies have also seen a sort of resurgence on the big screen and on video streaming apps like Netflix. Extraction is one such movie brought about by this renaissance, and with familiar names involved in the project like Sam Hargrave (director), Joe Russo (screenwriter) and Chris Hemsworth (leading role), who are all known for their ties to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, there are high expectations for this movie to be just as action-packed and thrilling as the biggest blockbuster superhero film. In this High Five Movie Review, we’ll take a look to see if Extraction hit its mark or if it failed to deliver.
Extraction follows Tyler Rake (Chris Hemsworth), a mercenary and former member of the Australian special forces, as he fights his way through Dhaka, Bangladesh to save Ovi Mahajan (Rudhraksh Jaiswal), the kidnapped son of a drug lord. The story is as straightforward as can be – most would even say stereotypical – and is reminiscent of movies such as John Wick, The Raid and Man on Fire. The movie rolls with its predictable plot, hitting every beat as you would expect, with only a moment or two in the end that would surprise the audience. Not to say that this is detrimental to the overall story, as the execution is solid and the breakneck pace keeps you on your toes as the action continuously unfolds.
There is barely any exposition as fight scene after fight scene drives the plot forward without the need for much dialogue or explanation. What this gets in the way of, though, is character development. Rake is a highly-skilled mercenary with a troubled past, but that’s as much as we get even halfway through the movie. Not much is revealed about his motivations; he either seems to be in it for the money or as if he has some kind of death wish. This does little to paint him as a sympathetic character, let alone one we should root for. Or does this mean a sequel or a prequel is lined up to fully unleash his character? As a stand-alone movie, some clearer hints on the character would be more helpful though.
Chris Hemsworth played the leading role perfectly with the physicality and swagger you would expect from a Marvel leading man, the sheer intensity and charisma of Hemsworth is enough to convince anyone of his worth as an actor.
Randeep Hooda brought his A-game as Saju Rav, a henchman of the drug lord Ovi Mahajan Sr. (Pankaj Tripathi) and former member of the Indian special forces. Although a tertiary character at best, Rav was easily the most sympathetic thanks to a strong backstory complemented by Hooda’s ability to convey the rawest emotions.
Another standout performer is Priyanshu Painyuli who played Amir Asif, the Bangladeshi crime lord who ordered Mahajan’s kidnapping. Painyuli entertained with great panache, channeling his inner mob boss into a flamboyantly cool character who says the most grotesque things with a straight face and a melodramatic flair.
Other commendable performances are by Pankaj Tripathi who made the most out of limited screen time as Ovi Mahajan Sr., Golshifteh Farahani who expertly portrayed concerned and reliable contractor Nik Khan, and Rudhraksh Jaiswal, who is essentially the film’s second lead and holds his own as Ovi Mahajan. Jaiswal as Mahajan, in particular, is the emotional core of the film, keeping it together during brief downtimes and humanizing the almost superhuman-like protagonist in Rake.
Extraction was shot by cinematographer Newton Thomas Sigel, who has worked on films such as Drive, The Usual Suspects and the X-Men films. The experienced Sigel, with the help of director Sam Hargrave’s eye for movement, creates an immersive experience which is best illustrated by the film’s big set piece: a oner or single take action sequence at the 35-minute mark.
Although single take scenes can be seen as gimmicky, with the right approach, they can be an effective way to suspend disbelief and completely reel an audience in. Extraction does just that with its oner or single take sequence that spans 12 minutes, following a car chase, foot chase, knife fight, hand-to-hand fight, and finally ending in another car chase. The sequence was made possible by stitching together several long takes with the help of CGI and camera trickery. The inventiveness and fluidity of the camera movement is on full display here: one part of the sequence has a car doing a reverse 180 turn as the camera smoothly dollies inside the car to stay with our protagonists for the remainder of the ride as they fight of threats like oncoming traffic, shooters and cop cars. The whole sequence makes you feel as if you are with them taking cover, avoiding road obstacles and running through apartment buildings.
Despite being set in Dhaka, only blank takes and drone shots were taken in the city while most of the shooting took place in Mumbai and Ahmedabad in India, and Ban Pong, Ratchaburi, and Nakhon Pathom in Thailand. The set designers did an amazing job recreating the feel of Dhaka, from wide panorama shots of crowded streets and markets to the more intimate details like making the apartment complexes lived in. There are a few inaccuracies in the portrayal of the city (read more about them here), but majority of the criticism the film drew is from portraying Dhaka as a slum city.
Dhaka is Bangladesh’s economic, political and cultural center, but the film did not depict it as such, opting to show the city as poverty-stricken, corrupt and dirty. Interestingly enough, the movie’s source material, the graphic novel Ciudad by Ande Parks and Joe and Anthony Russo, is set Ciudad del Este, Paraguay, leading viewers to believe that the decision to swap out one developing country for another was done out of convenience and not as a necessary revision to the story. This makes the setting feel interchangeable, despite the efforts of the set and costume designers to evoke the contrary.
Like other stunt professionals turned directors, Hargrave knows how to show action from the build-up, point of impact and follow through without diminishing its weight. The seamless stunt work, fight choreography and execution of hand-to-hand combat scenes are fluid and heavy-hitting, reminiscent of a technical heavyweight professional wrestling match. These scenes also feature inventive yet practical ways of using weapons like mugs, rakes and tables, which come as a welcome surprise for viewers who are expecting pure gun fighting.
Shootout scenes are reminiscent of first person shooter video games like Call of Duty, following the protagonist as he makes his way through different locations to shoot down his enemies. And like video games, the results are extremely violent.
Ultraviolent movies are nothing new, however these are usually accompanied by stylized treatments that render the violence palatable, beautiful even. Films like Kill Bill, Drive and John Wick treat violence as an aesthetic, combining it with ballet-like choreography, atmospheric music and impossible amounts of blood – leaning into the violence just enough to cue the audience in on the unrealness of it all. By contrast, Extraction, much like other films by the Russos and Hargrave, grounds itself in reality, with “real” people in “real” settings. The film isn’t nearly stylized enough to depict violence as “art,” leaving you with a gruesome feeling in the pit of your stomach as the body count piles up.
Extraction is a straightforward action film which unfolds at breakneck speed and borrows a lot of the tropes and narrative beats from similarly premised movies. It features solid acting, immersive cinematography and expertly choreographed fight scenes which reels the viewer right in the middle of the action. We give Extraction 2½ out of 5 waves. And we hope the rumored movie sequel or prequel is real, as we’re looking forward to its next wave!