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The only reason to even consider watching Extraction is for the 20-minute action sequence that comes at the end of the first act. It’s an electrifying chase scene, in which Chris Hemsworth drives, punches, and shoots his way through the streets of Mumbai, leaving a trail of corpses in his wake. The camera plays both journalist and collaborator, following behind him as he sprints to escape, then spinning around a corner to identify a surprise attack. It’s also shot as if filmed in a single take, even though the seams will be apparent to even casual viewers. All in all, it’s an impressive technical achievement but one that begs for praise too brazenly. It’s the flashy, self-conscious choice of a director trying to distract you from how empty the film actually is.
Hemsworth plays Tyler Rake, an ex-soldier who now works in the private sector, specializing in extracting hostages. He is hired by an Indian drug lord, whose teenage son has been kidnapped by a rival. Never mind why. It couldn’t matter less. The initial rescue is easy enough—all Rake has to do is kill a room full of nameless thugs in gruesome fashion—but getting out of the city is the tougher task, especially when the kidnapper has closed its borders, and the kid’s father has directed his own goons to steal the kid back from Rake, just so he doesn’t have to pay him.
Most of these characters are defined by a single trait: their ability and willingness to kill. Nearly every scene in Extraction shows someone getting shot point-blank in the head. It makes a run for the record in that category, which was once held by Martin Scorsese’s The Departed and is currently owned by the latest John Wick film. With so many of its action beats enacted in exactly the same fashion, Extraction feels more like a first-person shooter video game than a film.
If it aimed to be a simple thrill ride it would have been better off, but it loses any claim to credibility when it foolishly tries to take seriously the relationship between Rake and the teenage hostage. To do this, they utilized the flimsy and overused “Dead Kid” device to justify Rake’s behavior. It’s the second film this year, following the addiction drama The Way Back, to insert the trauma of losing a child into a story where good character development would have done the trick, and it’s even less effective here. While many great works of drama have centered on the loss of a child, in Extraction it’s a painfully shallow attempt to make Rake seem more human, to justify his violent behavior, and to create a bond between him and the boy that feels entirely unearned.
In fact, it’s not clear what Extraction is trying to earn, except more subscribers and bigger bonuses for its streaming service executives. It’s sad that this shallow puddle of a film is the best that Hemsworth, who has cultivated a promising star persona in his last few Marvel movies, could do. It’s not the blockbuster he deserves, but instead a mildly diverting action sequence with a shapeless and cynical film around it, which places it squarely in the increasingly large pile of Netflix original action films, like last month’s Spenser Confidential, that are barely good enough to watch for free on your couch when you have literally nothing else to do.
Extraction is available to stream on Netflix on April 24.