The action movie genre used to be the biggest draw in cinemas, however, with the rise of the superhero subgenre the more classic shoot-em-ups have been slowly fading in the background, finding a home in straight-to-video. Only recently have such films as John Wick (2014) and the later Mission: Impossible movies exemplified a thirst for more fluid action, utilizing longer takes of stunts instead of the choppy sequences in 90s flicks. This newfound tone seems to be sought after by new director Sam Hargrave.
Extraction (2020) is the story of a group of international mercenaries, led by Tyler Rake (Chris Hemsworth), who are tasked with rescuing the hostage son (Rudhraksh Jaiswal) of a Mumbai crime-lord (Pankaj Tripathi). However, as expected by viewers, things turn sideways fast.
Extraction clearly is aware of what it is and what the audience wants to see; therefore it doesn’t spend much time on character development or much semblance of a plot. This is surprising considering the screenplay was adapted by Joe Russo of Russo brothers’ fame (Avengers: Endgame (2019)). We are left with a cliched hero: Tyler, who is a scarred soldier with a tragic past, and some incredibly bland villains, who show their cruelty by killing innocent henchmen.
Hargrave rose to fame as a stuntman and second-unit director in the Avengers films. He is in a continuing trend of incredibly adept stuntmen who jump to the director’s chair, such as David Leitch (Deadpool 2 (2018), Atomic Blonde (2017)) and Chad Stahelski (the John Wick films). Hargreaves, like his mentioned companions, is able to bring about an incredibly raw and immersive look into his action sequences. This is thanks to the aforementioned tendency to have longer takes of a fight, which gives audiences a greater sense of awareness as to the geography of a scene. These stuntmen-turned-directors have also proven to be incredibly adept at utilizing sound, helping differentiate each individual punch, as well as immersing the viewer in the quieter moments.
Hargrave has an ambitious sequence in this film, where an entire chase and fight is done to appear as one eleven-minute take. This might well be the highlight of the movie, and it also is an encouraging sign of the daring in Hargrave as a filmmaker, especially considering he did such a sequence on his first film.
The tepid script does show itself whenever the characters stop to take a breather, with incredibly dull conversations and unsuccessful attempts at humanization. The setting of Mumbai and Dhaka also brings about problems, especially considering that the hero of the story has to be a white Australian. I could go into a further analysis/criticism of the continuing trend of white heroes wreaking havoc and saving third-world characters/countries but doing so would feel like an over-analysis for Extraction. This film’s main attraction is the violence and action, and to expect any more would be unfair to the filmmakers.
Chris Hemsworth reportedly did most of the stunts himself, and regarding the intensity of many scenes it is impressive. However, the Australian is not able to salvage any semblance of depth or reality to his character, despite a visible attempt.
In the end Extraction is able to bring the thrills with some immersive choreographed fight scenes by a bold first-time director. The inexistent motivation for characters or much semblance of a plot does simplify this film unfavorably, however, the main objective of entertaining action is handily achieved.