Netflix action films have been hit or miss, but with Chris Hemsworth leading the newest Netflix Original film, I had high hopes for Extraction. That said, the film exceeded them and served up some of the best action sequences I’ve seen in American action since the last John Wick. Directed by Sam Hargrave and written by Joe Russo, Extraction is centered on Tyler Rake (Hemsworth), a fearless black market mercenary who doesn’t even blink when a gun is to his head. His skills are solicited to rescue Ovi (Rudhraksh Jaiswal), the kidnapped son of an imprisoned international crime lord. With nothing left to lose, Tyler takes the job and quickly enters a murky underworld of weapons dealers and drug traffickers, which turns the already deadly mission into impossible, forever altering the lives of Tyler and the boy.
While Extraction plays with a story that’s common in the action genre, it’s execution is what sets it apart. Moving from roaring action to silent moments of tension building used to give characters depth and an emotional connection to each other that broadens the narrative from just a high-paced thrilling film to one that has heart. As we learn more about Tyler, his skill for killing and survival becomes something that saddens the viewer instead of something to just marvel at.
With that said, Hargrave has an eye for action. From minimal cutting during fight sequences, which allows the actors and stunt performers to showcase the choreography in all its glory, to shooting a one-shot chase sequence from the hood of a car moving full speed, Hargrave has captured the beauty of action and its brutality as well. When it comes to action in American film, John Wick has become the new standard, but Hargrave and Hemsworth rose up to meet it. While the story isn’t perfect, Hargrave’s tracking in sequences is. The action in this film is worth its weight in gold, and while there is a lot we’ve seen in other films before, there is a lot that we haven’t, thanks to the use of multiple one-shots that don’t seem like they should work but do.
Hemsworth is a towering force in each fight sequence, and Hargrave frames him as such. But while he is physically imposing in looks, Hemsworth also excels in the physicality of this role. Each punch, kick, and take-down looks effortless, and each injury he sustains changes the ways he chooses to fight. Additionally, Randeep Hooda as Saju meets Hemsworth’s intensity in action sequences and his emotion in others. One of the best moments of the film is a knife fight between Tyler and Saju, which is clearly inspired by The Raid. It’s a scene that happens quickly and elegantly, with both Hooda and Hemsworth brilliantly on display.
Adapted from the graphic novel Ciudad, Extraction makes a large change – location. While the source material lives in the genre of narco-fiction, the choice to move the story out of Latin America and to India works in its favor. Instead of being lost in a sea of films about cartels in Latin America that perpetuate stereotypes that have immediate ramifications for Latinx in the United States, Extraction stands out.
That said, there are some elements of the subgenre that remain and mire the film, specifically the fact that Ovi is what most kidnapped characters are: cargo. While this isn’t his only purpose, throughout a lot of the film he’s a set piece to be moved, and the ramp-up to giving him depth is frustratingly slow. But thankfully, once we get to know him, his development not only makes sense but feels well-rounded.
My only other frustration with Extraction comes from the use of CGI to enhance explosions. The best part of this film is it’s action sequences, the practical nature of them, and the way they’re directed to highlight the performer’s physical skills. Hargrave grounds the fight scenes in reality which pushes up against the explosions that have clearly been manipulated. This pulled me out of the film, and for a lot of them, they were unnecessary.
Overall, while fans of funny Hemsworth won’t get their laughs, fans of action films will get a full-throttle ride. Extraction has some of the best action sequences you can watch right now, and that alone makes it worth the watch.
Extraction is now streaming exclusively on Netflix.
While fans of funny Hemsworth won’t get their laughs, fans of action films will get a full-throttle ride. Extraction has some of the best action sequences you can watch right now, and that alone makes it worth the watch.