With cinemas closed and movie studios pushing their releases past this summer and into next year, it’s slim pickings out there in the world of film. Without a cinema premiere this Friday, we instead have Extraction, a Netflix film starring Chris Hemsworth which is based on a comic titled Ciudad created by five people including the Russo Brothers of Avengers fame. The screenplay for Extraction is written by Joe Russo and the film is directed by first-time director and stuntman Sam Hargrave which means Hollywood has begun hiring stunt-guys as creatives after the success of the John Wick franchise.
Hemsworth plays Tyler Rake, an Australian black-market mercenary who is paid to rescue a kidnapped rich kid named Ovi, son of an imprisoned Indian crime lord. The plot which features double-crossing and bloody violence is very formulaic and it seems to be there just to set-up fight scenes and car chases. Judging by the kidnapping storyline and the graphic novel’s title, I would have thought this movie would be set in somewhere like Mexico. “Ciudad” is Spanish for “city” and the city the film-makers have chosen is… Dhaka, Bangladesh. After searching for the comic book in Amazon, I’ve discovered that the title is a reference to Ciudad del Este, a city in Paraguay. This film adaptation is instead set in Asia, not for any particular narrative reason but I assume to attract a wider international crowd. But I digress.
First, let’s start with the positives. There’s very well-choreographed car chases and fight scenes (which includes a humourous slapping of teenagers and swinging of legs to dislocate someone’s head from their neck). There’s some decent CGI and realistic makeup (especially for a broken nose) and of course some accomplished stunts. Extraction is not quite The Raid, not quite Sicario but given that this is Hargrave’s first film, it’s quite impressive. The editing (which includes seamless action including a car hitting Tyler Rake during a fight) is also worth a mention and depending on which sex floats your boat, there’s eye-candy in the form of Chris Hemsworth and Golshifteh Farahani.
So what about the negatives? Well, all of the command centre scenes are corny, the idea of a “mercenary with baggage” (and soft or out-of-focus flashbacks) is very much a cliché, and there’s lots of mumbling, inaudible dialogue (that’s not me being racist since it also includes Hemsworth). The film also stars David Harbour of Stranger Things fame, not because he’s the best man for the role but because Netflix likes to include a cameo of one of their stars. Harbour incidentally, looks like he’s lost weight. I guess Delhi belly is useful as a weight-loss diet.
After a slow first act, the film picks up pace as soon as the first action scene begins. As you’d expect, a stuntman directing an action movie results in lots of stunt-based err… action but an action film has to be more than just running, jumping, shooting, and blowing stuff up. Unfortunately, there’s not much depth to the storyline thanks to the mediocrity of Russo’s script. Similar to 21 Bridges, when a trailer and poster highlights the “Producers of Avengers: Endgame”, you know it’s an attempt to entice Marvel fans (and judging by the undeserved 8.9 out of 10 this film currently holds on IMDb it’s working). Extraction is much better than 21 Bridges however, and like I said: for a first film, Extraction at least showcases the director’s skills. If the entire film was made of car chases and shootouts, this would be a great movie but every time there’s a pause in the action, an attempt at injecting heart or pathos into the story, Extraction fails; the boredom of the conversing making you yawn as you await the next piece of action.
Speaking of action, some of it takes the form of a first-person shooter, which may appeal to gamers. Sam Hargrave seems to have been inducted into the Paul Greengrass school of camera-shake whereas Joe Russo has obviously studied the Serpico book of endings. I have to reiterate that all of the problems with this film are down to Russo. The nonsensical plot is hard to ignore – a henchman tasked to retrieve a gangster’s son only for the henchman to needlessly interfere in the “extraction” of the boy – why?
There’s the inclusion of two similar-aged kids from the class divide but that goes nowhere. There’s a quick mention of Ovi’s penchant for the piano but that’s quickly retired. The dialogue isn’t very memorable or unique either; just your run-of-the-mill gangsters versus special forces shtick. Other than the success of Avengers: Endgame, you wonder why all the promotional material is hell-bent on promoting Russo who is arguably to blame for all of the film’s shortcomings.
With Ovi crying for Tyler during the finale (a mercenary that he only knew for a day or two) this scene isn’t exactly believable. This isn’t Clint Eastwood’s A Perfect World, there’s no attempt at showing a juxtaposed yet blossoming friendship so why add some sham emotion to the ending?
During the end, Ovi dives into a pool which means absolutely nothing except for mirroring the opening scene where Tyler rock-dives (I don’t recall them bonding over or talking about diving but with all the muttering they could have). And oh yeah: who’s that standing by the swimming pool? Tyler? Someone else? Does anyone care?
With a better Director of Photography and a much better script, Sam Hargrave may create a better movie but his debut is average at best. There’s not much there if you…
Extract The Stunts.