If you’re looking for a dumb, disposable action movie in which Chris Hemsworth relentlessly shoots generic bad guys with only a few quick breaks to tend to his wounds and feel sorry for himself, Extraction is the movie for you. Actually, this R-rated Netflix bullet ballet is built for the biggest screen possible with the decibel level pushed up to 11 (home theaters only, since the multiplexes are closed, dammit). No judgments here if you just want to hang back and let nonstop gore, gunfire, and explosions numb you into submission. Take that, COVID-19.
Extraction shares the same name as a black-ops 2015 Bruce Willis fiasco and a 2013 non-starter with Danny Glover, which now qualifies the title as a jinx. No knock on Hemsworth — a long way from the bliss of Thor and the MCU — who does his level best to bring warmth and humor to the cartoonish role of Tyler Rake (yes, he does use a rake as a weapon!), an Aussie mercenary sent to India on a suicide mission. His job is to rescue young Ovi (the excellent Rudhraksh Jaiswal), the kidnapped son of an imprisoned drug lord and arms dealer (Golshifteh Farahani). Can this hardened gun-for-hire, with a personal tragedy still nagging at him, form a bond with a kid he thinks of as only a job? Have you ever seen a movie? The clichés of Hollywood formula hang over this film like the crushing heat of Dhaka, Ahmedabad, and Mumbai, the Indian cities where much of it was shot by the hardworking Newton Thomas Sigel. Only the thrumming score by Henry Jackson and Alex Belcher works harder.
Extraction marks the feature directing debut of Sam Hargrave, best known as an invaluable stunt coordinator for the Russo brothers on Captain America: Civil War (where he stunt-doubled for Chris Evans) and Avengers: Endgame (where he bonded with Hemsworth’s Thor). Joe Russo, who produced Extraction with his brother Anthony, wrote what laughably passes for a script, since dialogue is almost as nonexistent as clarity and character development in this adaptation of his own graphic novel. Complexity clearly found its way to the cutting-room floor, what with the major baddie being a local drug lord (Priyanshu Painyuli) who likes mutilating and murdering children. It’s not enough that Tyler (Ovi thinks he looks more like a Brad) is meant to become a surrogate father for the boy — you have to believe it. And Hargrave doesn’t take the time to make that happen. There’s an attempt at laughs, much thanks by the way, with the appearance of David Harbour, the sheriff on the Netflix hit Stranger Things, as a bawdy buddy of Tyler’s who maybe can’t be trusted. But the stereotypes outrun the actors at every turn.
Aiming for the fight poetry of the John Wick franchise, Extraction comes closer to a series of stunts strung together to look like an ultraviolent video game (think Manhunt 2) in which the avatars are played by actual humans. There are times when the kamikaze fireworks are damn impressive, as in a thunderously exciting chase through the streets of Dhaka and a climactic showdown on a bridge where Tyler is attacked from land, water, and air. The real drag is the shameless cribbing — without the style and substance — from the John Wick handbook: one man with a price on his head takes on the world for the sake of a dog or, in this case, a child. Extraction isn’t really a movie at all, it’s two hours of elaborate target practice. Your call.