For many, Chris Hemsworth is best-known for portraying a certain iconic hammer-wielding Norse god in franchise fare where he has no trouble finding enormous audiences at box office but outside of Marvel, it’s a mixed picture. There have been successes like Snow White and the Huntsman and Rush, bombs like Blackhat and In the Heart of the Sea and modest performers like 12 Strong and Men in Black: International.
Now, likely noticing the success stars with a mixed box-office track have had doing so, Hemsworth has become the latest star to make the move to Netflix with Extraction, an imperfect but entertaining actioner that cements his status as one of the world’s leading action stars.
When Ovi (Rudhraksh Jaiswal) the teenage son of an imprisoned Mumbai drug lord is abducted by a rival and taken to Dhaka in Bangladesh, a large ransom is inevitably demanded for his release. When the son’s bodyguard Suja (Randeep Hooda) is threatened if Ovi is not returned safe, he hires Tyler Rake (Hemsworth for once playing one of his native), a mercenary whose reckless attitude is linked to a haunted past that is gradually revealed.
When Rake arrives with his team, he is taken alone to where Ovi is kept quickly enduring a one-man battle which for its brutality feels like a warm-up exercise compared to what comes after. However the extraction goes awry when most of his team are taken out, the mission is called off because of prevention of payment and the city is shut down to prevent Ovi’s escape. In spite of that, Rake chooses to protect Ovi and resume the extraction virtually by himself, battling against the pursuing bodyguard, corrupt officers and even child gangs on the way.
In making his directorial debut, Sam Hargrave employs the tactics of a brutal action thriller by pelting clichés such as emotionally-broken lead heroes taking out multiple amounts of grown villains who are reduced to mush within seconds in videogame-style brutality. Throw in a bunch of one-dimensional villains who revel in throwing children off roofs and threatening mutilation and a kidnap victim who practically grows up in less than two hours and it sounds like the hallmarks for another basic thriller depicting the endless-aged battle between good and evil.
In fact, it is. But there is an energy to it that makes this stand out as entertaining enough to excuse its unoriginality. Key to this is a 12-minute long take which starts with Rake and Ovi inside a vehicle and progresses inside and outside a residential block where fists, guns and even vehicles end up being used as weaponry, a virtuoso sequence that deserves plaudits for the ambition within its genre.
On a technical point of view, the film does peak then and it happens about a third of the way through but there is enough action before and after to satisfy action fans, including a climactic shoot-em-up action sequence on a bridge which the film’s non-linear opening sequence gives some clue to.
Even if the idea of a so-called white saviour narrative lingers in the mind of some, that should not be focused on because Rake’s role as a hero who without hesitation puts people over profit is believable as such that ultimately, who cares? And though it may make the tourist industry within Bangladesh appear edgy given its presentation as a crime-riddled palace of death and destruction, even that can be forgiven given that with the action genre, exaggeration is justified especially if one can sit back and engage with the feel of escapism.
The only new thing it is offering in regards to film history is that Hemsworth may have found a long-lasting side project of bloody action works designed solely for the adult crowd when not playing by contrast for the kids with his usual franchise. It’s also evidence that an action film of this style is as welcome in the world of streaming as it is in cinemas.
OUT OF FOUR STARS: **1/2