3 out of 5 stars

One could argue nobody’s benefited more from the success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe than Chris Hemsworth. Playing Thor has brought the Australian actor fame and fortune, but his filmography’s otherwise chock-full of misfires—from the forgettable The Huntsman: Winter’s War (2012) to the lamentable Men in Black: International (2019). That might lead some to believe Hemsworth is only good at wielding a hammer while making quips, but Netflix’s Extraction shows he can shine outside of comic-book fare.

Extraction is an exciting and bloody-knuckle brawler of a film in the vein of John Wick. It’s light on character development, easy on plot, and packed full of action. While it has flaws, it’s generally a fun ride thanks to Hemsworth’s ability to play a gun-for-hire so plausibly. Here, he plays former SASR mercenary Tyler Rake, who’s given the seemingly impossible mission of rescuing a drug lord’s son…

Teenager Ovi Mahajan (Rudhraksh Jaiswal) is the son of India’s biggest drug lord, Ovi Mahajan Sr. (Pankaj Tripathi), who’s in prison and has left the care of his boy to his most trusted lieutenant, the former Special Ops soldier Saju (Bollywood star Randeep Hooda, who gives a solid performance as the boy’s failed caretaker). When a rival drug lord called Amir Asif (Priyanshu Painyuli) kidnaps Mahajan Jr. for ransom, Saju must find a way to get him back or Ovi’s father will kill his family.

That leads Saju to contact Rake’s team for an extraction mission. Ovi is being held in Dhaka, Bangladesh, and it’s not just a gang of drug dealers holding him hostage—as corruption has infected both the police and military, who are determined to prevent Ovi leaving the city alive.

A predictable string of gun battles and inflated body count follows. Nothing about Extraction is surprising, except that it’s fairly good. There’s little originality to it, however. The plot twists in Joe Russo’s (Avengers: Endgame) screenplay are painfully obvious. In fact, the film’s biggest twist comes from the inclusion of one of Netflix’s biggest stars, playing an old friend of Rake’s in an uncredited role. But you’ll have to watch to find out who it is!

What the film does have are top-notch action sequences that are beautifully choreographed with a trained eye. Although director Sam Hargrave isn’t a familiar name, many will be familiar with his work as a stunt coordinator and Second Unit Director on three MCU films (Captain America: Civil War, Avengers: Infinity War, and Avengers: Endgame).

Hargrave’s directorial debut with Extraction should get him more work behind the camera. He handles the film’s non-stop pace with competence and the stunts are well done, as one would expect given his background in that area. There’s not a lot of VFX augmenting them, either, just plenty of bone-crushing and blood splattering. Hargrave deserves kudos for not simply taking a paint-by-number approach to Extraction, too, as effort is made to try new things and “push the envelope” in a few areas. This is most evident in an extended single-shot action sequence where Rake and Saju put on a great exhibition of how many different ways a man can hurt someone. For action film enthusiasts, it’s a delight.

While its action sequences are on par with the aforementioned John Wick movies, Extraction does fall short on character development and its own world-building. John Wick (2014) was an epiphany because of the dedicated performance from Keanu Reeves and how it created several interesting characters living inside a well-crafted alternate world.

Extraction has an equally talented and dedicated star in Hemsworth, but the movie never puts much effort into its supporting characters or developing the world in which they live. It’s a shame because one can see the potential (especially with Saju), but the film treats glimpses of character depth as obligatory steps rather than storytelling opportunities. And the dialogue is too often used to provide the film’s star with a chance to catch his breath before bullets and fists fly again.

If Extraction had been given a theatrical release, it likely would’ve been yet another misfire on Hemsworth’s resume. There’s just not enough here to distinguish the film from its action movie peers. But released straight to Netflix, where expectations are naturally lower, Extraction feels like a winner. Likewise, for Hemsworth, this feels like an important step to make more people appreciate his physical prowess and charisma outside of playing a superhero. I hope to see him do more like this in the coming years, to smooth the unavoidable transition away from Marvel.

USA | 2020 | 116 MINUTES | 2.35:1 | COLOUR | ENGLISH

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Cast & Crew

director: Sam Hargrave.
writer: Joe Russo (based on ‘Ciudad’ by Ande Parks, Joe Russo & Fernando León González).
starring: Chris Hemsworth, Rudhraksh Jaiswal, Randeep Hooda, Pankaj Tripathi, Golshifteh Farahani, Suraj Rikame & David Harbour.