Director: Sam Hargrave
Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Rudraksh Jaiswal, Pankaj Tripathi, Randeep Hooda
Extraction is not the smartest Dumb Action Movie™. It belongs more to the Michael Bay School of Random Violence than the John Wick School of Stylized Butt-kicking. Given that much of the drama unfolds in Dhaka, the Bay-of-Bengal markers are distinct in stuntman-director Sam Hargrave’s filmmaking. There’s the super-saturated teal-orange-toned visual palette, which makes the locations look sunnier and hotter, which in turn psychologically conditions the viewer to overestimate the fiery danger surrounding a white hero. There’s a wafer-thin premise that serves as an excuse to string together a bunch of slickly choreographed chases and careless explosions. There’s a (new) South Asian region where brown collateral damage and drug-lord-dominated national capitals are supposedly a way of life. And there’s the haunted mercenary with nothing to lose – a tired character so abused by the man-on-fire movies that it’s only a matter of time before he actually shoots the oversensitive kid he is tasked to rescue in the very first frame. “I’m in the biggest sewer in the world,” he screams at one point, while noisily navigating the crowded bylanes of Dhaka, instantly alienating the entire sub-continent with his elite Aussie arrogance. In another life, he might have even been a visiting Test cricketer playing Harbhajan Singh at Eden Gardens.
Extraction opens with the sad little rich kid. Ovi Mahajan (Rudraksh Jaiswal), the son of an imprisoned drug lord (Pankaj Tripathi, with more beads of sweat on his forehead than dialogue), is kidnapped from Mumbai after a SoBo party. The drug lord’s Man Friday, Saju (Randeep Hooda), an ex-Special Forces soldier himself, decides to hire the only mercenary capable of being a hunky one-man demolition team. Enter Tyler Rake, played by Thor actor Chris Hemsworth, who takes up the extraction mission after his attractive agent (Golshifteh Farahani) tells him he needs the money. It is revealed that Bangladesh’s biggest drug-lord (a badly-cast Priyanshu Painyulli) is behind the kidnapping. Tyler enters Dhaka, rescues the kid in no time, and the rest of Extraction is about the two on the run from a thousand future corpses.
It’s a bit strange to see a Hollywood muscleman take on Bengali-speaking baddies, but then again, it’s a refreshing change from having to watch Arab-speaking ‘middle-eastern’ baddies break into stilted English every time they feel threatened. The closest the film gets to being relevant is when Dhaka goes into “lockdown” because the baby-faced villain basically owns the army. It’s all fun and bullets till Tyler discovers that Saju is also in Dhaka to fight him and claim the kid (“I am just an object to you all,” Ovi remarks, perceptively) because Ovi senior wanted Tyler to do the dirty work without paying for it. There is nothing about Ovi’s life in a South Mumbai mansion that suggests his father needs to be so cheap – hiring a suicidal mercenary sounds like petty change for him. Yet, writer Joe Russo (one half of the Avengers director-duo) adds this needless dimension because how else do we see Randeep Hooda battle Chris Hemsworth in a breathless 15-minute-long one-take chase across the city before they eventually join forces anyway?
While we’re on the topic of one-shot action sequences, as remarkably designed as this one is (the camera enters and exits several cars, leaps across buildings in sync with bodies and buzzes around combating soldiers like a hyper-energized bee), I believe Hollywood has now trivialized the magic of this technique by overusing it. After 1917, bonkers is the new normal. It’s still thrilling to watch, but doesn’t look as improbable anymore. It wasn’t so long ago that films like Oldboy, Creed, Children of Men, Atomic Blonde and even True Detective Season 1 were briefly elevated by the sheer audacity of human engineering. But in the case of Extraction, action is its only and last resort, which is why the gimmickry feels all the more pronounced. I almost expected such a scene – and that defeats half the purpose of crafting it. While it’s tempting to appreciate the ambition of what otherwise aspires to be brainless entertainment, it’s equally disheartening to see every other big-budget action movie clutching onto the one-shot as if it were a liferaft in an ocean of sepia-tinted mediocrity.
The final set-piece unfurls on a bridge with helicopters and sharp-shooters and missiles and tragic madmen pounding each other into humid submission. If you look closely, you might even see all the monkeys from Rise of The Planet of the Apes chuckling on the Golden Gate Bridge, amused by the loudness of the blood sonnets being sung by evolved versions of themselves. After all, Extraction offers irrefutable evidence of the fact that there’s no point being dumb if you refuse to be smart.