Review: EXTRACTION, Chris Hemsworth Blows up Bangladesh in Sam Hargrave's Debut Ballistic Porn

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Review: EXTRACTION, Chris Hemsworth Blows up Bangladesh in Sam Hargrave's Debut Ballistic Porn
Tyler Rake (Chris Hemsworth) is a mercenary who takes a job to rescue Ovi, the kidnapped son of an imprisoned crime lord. When the job goes to hell Rake has to escape into the streets of Dhaka, Bangladesh, with Ovi in tow. Amir, the other crime boss who kidnapped Ovi wants him back and uses the local paramilitary and police forces under his influence, along with the local thuggary, to get Ovi back. With a large sum of money promised for completion of the job other unexpected players enter into the fray, making the mission to get Ovi to safety nearly impossible.
 
Extraction is a family reunion of sorts. The Russos brought in Sam Hargrave to make his feature film debut on Extraction, an adaptation of their 2009 graphic novel Ciduad. Hargrave is a long time stunt professional and was a stunt double on the Russo’s Winter Soldier then stunt and fight coordinator on Civil War, Infinity War and Endgame. Hemsworth is Hemsworth. If you do not know him then there is nothing we can do for you. 
 
There is almost always a little bit of excitement when you hear that a stunt professional is getting behind the camera and will direct their own action film. It is not uncommon to see a coordinator post a pre-viz video online, showing how they envisioned a certain scene on a series or movie they were working on and they are often wildly different from what ends up on screen. Wildly different and wildly better. With the recent success of stunt professionals turned directors like David Leitch and Chad Stahelski - and I am mentioning them for reasons that will be obvious to you when you watch Extraction - more bets are being hedged on other stunt professionals to handle bigger action films. The Russos have their money on Hargrave to do the same and he has delivered a good debut action film and calling card. 
 
In a moment of down time in the film, between the hail of bullets and ballistic mayhem, Rake and Ovi get to talking and Ovi says, “You drown not by falling into a river, but by staying submerged in it”. It is a quote attributed to author Paulo Coelho and I am sure that in the moment Ovi means for it to be something deep, as in, a man who stays submerged in a life of violence will fall to it. When Rake asks where it was from Ovi replies that he did remember, he read it somewhere in a book. That’s a bit of a failure in Russo’s screenplay to pursue any great depth or further an emotional investment in Rake and his burden that haunts him in the film. But it turns out that this is a good way to look at Extraction
 
That was a cool scene, where is it from? I do not remember, I saw it in a movie, somewhere. 
 
Extraction boasts two large, long and honestly impressive set pieces; the extraction and the escape. These two sequences stand with the best of them, for the sheer amount of violence in them, also their scale and execution. Clearly an action first-plot later kind of film, Extraction is focused on delivering action thrills and expert execution. It borrows from a lot of films and franchises that have come before it. The story is a lighter but more explosive thematic take on Man on Fire. The Raid and John Wick films and indelibly left their mark on action cinema for years if not decades to come and their impression can be felt all over Extraction. That is not a bad thing at all and Hargrave and his crew make a good run of it. The extraction sequence features a near perfect one-taker with car chase and gun battles that move from floor to floor, building to building and rooftop to rooftop. Technically Hargrave proves he is very capable of putting together impressive action sequences. He went as far as strapping down to the front of a stunt car and carrying the camera himself for the car chasing. Full credit is also due to Newton Thomas Sigel and the camera crews helping piece together the impressive sequences. 
 
Some of Extraction’s influencers did it a bit cleaner, a bit clearer. Just little bits of the melee action get a bit lost in the framing or in an edit. But overall those two major set pieces are very, very good indicators of what Hargrave can achieve as a director. If this were a normal year and if we were returning to a normal life I would say that he would have no trouble finding more work in action cinema after this. Extraction for him is a statement to producers everywhere that he can deliver the good and intends to stick around for a while. Where Hargrave’s signature is, where his contribution to the way action cinema is done, among all the beautiful violence, is not clear at this moment. I am fine with that. He was hired to do a job and he did it very well. When, or gods forbid, if, movie making returns to what we once knew and Hargrave is given more projects it will be interesting to see what he thinks he can offer up to the action cinema gods that will be identified as his own contribution to the genre. As far as ballistic porn goes, this is some of the best you will see this year. There were a couple ‘OH!!!’ moments during the sequences where I had to stop and go back to watch them again. I would consider that one of the best compliments I can give to a director and their action film.
 
Apart from well executed action sequences it is not too surprising how little actually happens in Extraction despite its near two hour run time. I was eager to see how Hemsworth handled the more intense and engaging action scenes of Extraction. He holds up just fine and I am more than pleased with his action chops in this film. He does okay with the tortured soul bit but he’s not given much else to do here but deliver a hail of bullets and emote at the right times. The failure to capitalize on the Coelho quote is just one example of how little the screenplay yearns to have us invest in its characters. 
 
I will say that there is an interesting subtext about fatherhood in it though. And unless that it is because it is triggering some hidden, deep yearnings in myself to be a father I cannot tell you. I almost want to go back to the source material and see if it is part of the graphic novel, or Russo is going through his own father figure things at the time he adapted it for screen. But it seems to be a common theme running through the film. Rake was on deployment when tragedy struck his family and he carries that burden with him. Indian actor Randeep Hooda proves to be an interesting dark horse as the druglord Ovi’s henchman Saju as he puts his family at risk going after Rake and Ovi as well. He has his own emotional exchange with his son over the phone after his first run in with the fleeing duo, an interesting step to take with someone we are led to believe is one of the bad guys. Take it as far as the drug lords, Ovi’s dad and Amir, if you want. Ovi’s dad is in prison but like most drug lords, before that, he was never there for his son. Likewise a young street thug tries to prove himself to druglord Amir and he in turn shares his ‘fatherly wisdom’ with him. 
 
If Extraction were to have come out shortly after the graphic novel was optioned, some ten years ago, and it delivered the same level of ballistic porn it does now we would be referring to it today as the forebearer of what constitutes very good action sequences. Hargrave made the most of this opportunity, granted to him by the powerful Russo brothers, to deliver a well executed and action filled adaptation of their graphic novel. Hemsworth is very capable of carrying those big action scenes and perhaps provides a hint that he is capable of carrying more emotional weight if the opportunity presents itself. For the moment though it was really good seeing him rumble and tumble through the streets of Dakha laying waste to the land with guns ablazing instead of fighting imaginary creatures in front of a green screen. But, he is a superstar, as are the Russo brothers, and he would not have to worry too much if Extraction were an abject failure. The only one with their future hanging in the balance is Sam Hargrave and I think he did a more than admirable job with his debut feature film and I want to see what he does next.
 
Extraction drops on Netflix on April 24th. 
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