“Sounds like some mythic shit!” So says Tyler Rake (Chris Hemsworth), the brooding hero of Extraction, when he’s tasked with his latest job. That’s actually a pretty wordy sentence for Tyler, who spends most of the film grumbling monosyllabically and silently shooting people. Lots and lots of people. In fact, Extraction might as well be retitled Chris Hemsworth Shoots People. Sadly, despite Tyler’s promise of some “mythic shit”, Extraction is little more than a predictable action-thriller – a film that gets by with some admittedly cool shoot outs and fights, but ultimately has nothing on its mind.
Who is Tyler Rake? Well, we know he’s a cool, tough guy, because he’s played by Chris Hemsworth. And we know he’s also a damaged soul, because he’s constantly thinking about his dead son, when he’s not popping pills. And that’s pretty much it. Tyler isn’t exactly a great guy – he’s a black market mercenary who is very good at murdering people. But ultimately, he’ll do the right thing. Why? Because the script, by Russo Brother Joe Russo, requires him to.
Rake’s latest deadly mission requires him to rescue Ovi (Rudhraksh Jaiswal) the teenage son of a crime lord who has been kidnapped by another crime lord. It’s not going to be easy, as the kidnapper has an entire army at his disposal, as well as a gang of street kids ready to do his bidding. To further complicate matters, Ovi’s imprisoned father has tasked bodyguard Saju (Randeep Hooda) with rescuing the boy as well. Soon, all of these characters are colliding as Rake moves Ovi from one place to the next, and the bullets fly.
And boy do they fly. One thing that can be said of Extraction: it’s never boring, because it never really lets up. Hemsworth’s hero is constantly shooting big, loud guns, and people are constantly shooting big, loud guns at him. And when the gunfights pause, a few knife-and-fist-fights break out as well. What’s curious about this is how unexciting it all is. Sure, Extraction never slows down, and therefore avoids dragging, but none of the action here is particularly thrilling. One might want to argue that director Sam Hargrave was attempting to make his action scenes raw and brutal in an attempt to not glorify violence, but it’s pretty clear that’s not what the movie is going for. It wants its big action beats to have you on the edge of your seat. But they don’t.
The only truly stand-out section is a very lengthy sequence designed to resemble one extremely long take – one that sees Hemsworth running, driving, jumping, and shooting up and down a city block. It’s fairly well-staged, although don’t be surprised if you spend a lot of time trying to spot the tricks and hidden edits used to splice it all together.
There are moments where Extraction tries to rise above its pulpy aspirations. Russo’s script actually takes the time to develop many of the characters around Tyler Rake, including the oldest member of the street kid gang, who is desperate to please his boss; and the kidnapper pulling the strings, who is portrayed as a stylish, ominous guy with influence everywhere. Randeep Hooda makes the biggest impression as the other guy trying to rescue Ovi – he’s far more sympathetic than Tyler, and he’s equally good at kicking ass. Late in the film, David Harbour shows up as one of Tyler’s old buddies, and makes the most of an extremely limited role. We’ve seen Harbour play this type of character before, but he’s still fun to watch.
Hemsworth is an inherently likable actor, so it’s easy to go along with him here. But as the recent Thor and Avengers titles have revealed, he’s much better at playing a character with a sense of humor than a dour tough guy. Sadly, Extraction requires him to only be the latter – there’s nothing even remotely humorous about Tyler Rake (other than his name).
Bathed in a sickly yellow filter from beginning to end, Extraction is often as ugly as its subject matter. It would be wrong to call this film nihilistic, but it’s also so unconcerned with collateral damage that it begins to border on unresponsible. A lengthy action sequence on a packed bridge results in several innocent bystanders caught in traffic to be shot, blown up, and worse, and the film – nor any of the characters – never blinks an eye. And having Hemsworth be the sole white face constantly causing all this destruction in a foreign land adds an extra level of ugliness that the movie has no interest in commenting on.
As far as disposable action flicks go, Extraction makes good on its promise of seeing Chris Hemsworth kill a lot of people. Maybe that’s good enough for a direct-to-Netflix release, but wouldn’t it be nice if all of this mayhem actually added up to something in the end?
/Film Rating: 5 out of 10