Director: Sam Hargrave
Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Rudraksh Jaiswal, Pankaj Tripathi, Randeep Hooda
Does a white savior movie become more palatable if the white savior is Chris Hemsworth? That is the critical question that Extraction presents. Thor has been transported to Dhaka. He’s now Tyler Rake, a fierce mercenary, slicing and dicing through the bad guys. His job is to rescue an Indian teenager from a brutal drug lord. Tyler is of course more human than Thor. He’s battered and bruised both physically and psychologically. But as he decimates the drug lord’s army, Tyler is a thing of beauty. Incredibly, he even kills a man with a rake.
Extraction is the directorial debut of Sam Hargrave, the stunt coordinator on some of the biggest films in the MCU, including Avengers: Endgame, Avengers: Infinity War and Captain America: Civil War. Hargrave has worked extensively with the Russo brothers. Extraction is based on a graphic novel, co-written by Ande Parks and Joe and Anthony Russo. The film’s screenplay has been written by Joe Russo.
Director Sam Hargrave doesn’t sanitize the brutality. The violence is gritty and graphic
The Russo-made MCU films found that sweet spot between story and stunts. But Extraction, shot mostly in India, Bangladesh and Thailand, is all about action. Every sequence is elaborately choreographed including one that is designed to look like a single, continuous shot. It begins with a car chase, then morphs into a street battle. There are knives and guns. The climax unfolds on a bridge blocked by traffic – the good guys and the bad guys play a bloody hide-and-seek amidst vehicles. Hargrave doesn’t sanitize the brutality. The violence is gritty and graphic. And it has consequences – the men get breathless with exhaustion. They bleed and hurt.
There’s enough frenzy and dazzle and yet these sequences quickly get tedious because the narrative is so banal. There are few surprises here. Take Tyler – he has a handy tragic backstory, which makes him the perfect mercenary because he cares too little about living. This is established early in the film – Tyler takes a 30-meter plunge into a lake in Australia. I know the height because just before he does it, a character tells us that the drop is 30 meters while another exclaims how high it is. This is the equivalent of the standard Hindi movie scene in which it is established that the hero is a khatron ka khiladi. But in case you still don’t get it, another character tells Tyler: You’re hoping if you spin the chamber enough times, you’re going to catch a bullet. Of course he is.
So Tyler takes this suicidal assignment. As someone explains – it’s the biggest drug lord in India versus the biggest drug lord in Bangladesh. To which Tyler says: Sounds like some mythic shit. Dialogue is not this film’s forte. I think the subcontinent was chosen as the backdrop because the heat and crowds, brown skin and smattering of Bengali and Hindi instantly establish Tyler as a fish out of water. But in combat, Tyler with a mug is more efficient than a local with a blade. The body count piles up high.
Priyanshu Painyuli has a nice, unhinged menace to him. But the don has henchmen who wear black suits and striped ties – really? In that heat?
Except perhaps Randeep Hooda as Saju, Ovi’s father’s right-hand man. Randeep’s hair, styled to make him look like John Travolta from Pulp Fiction, was a major distraction for me. Also, I honestly couldn’t figure out what his plan was or why he spent so long combating Tyler. But Randeep, always reliable, gives it his best shot.
Hargrave and Russo don’t seem very interested in the personal histories of these people. The characters are paper-thin. The lovely Golshifteh Farahani, playing an arms dealer, pops up in the unlikeliest places. She wears eyeliner even in a gunfight, but has little to do. There’s also Priyanshu Painyuli as Dhaka don Amir Asif. He has a nice, unhinged menace to him. But the don has henchmen who wear black suits and striped ties – really? In that heat? How do they get any work done?
This little detail made it impossible for me to take this film seriously. You can watch Extraction on Netflix.