Everyone’s Going to Be Talking About ‘Extraction’s One Great Action Scene
The scene that everyone’s going to remember Extraction for begins about 34 minutes and 30 seconds into the film. Chris Hemsworth’s mercenary, the absurdly named Tyler Rake, attempts to escape a locked-down city with Ovi (Rudhraksh Jaiswal), the teenage son of a drug kingpin. For the next 12 minutes, as Tyler and Ovi navigate their way through the streets of Dhaka, the camera (seemingly) never cuts, even as they go from a getaway car into a building, across two rooftops, down another building, and into another vehicle, all with numerous fist fights and shootouts along the way.
Even though many of the camera cuts are visible if you know where to look for them, it’s still an impressive logistical achievement of blocking, framing, camera movement, choreography, and, yes editing. It makes sense that Extraction director Sam Hargrave previously made his living as a stunt coordinator for big Hollywood movies; the guy clearly knows his craft. At times, his Extraction showstopper recalls the less elaborate (and less artificial) long takes in Alfonso Cuaron’s Children of Men, another movie about an ethically compromised man trying to ferry a valuable person through dangerous territory.
Extraction might outdo Children of Men in some minor technical ways, but it can’t hold a candle to it as a whole. The movie comes alive around the 34-minute mark; it’s a bit of a slog until that point — one I confess I might have turned off long before its bravura centerpiece if not for professional commitments. I specifically mention this scene a half-hour in not to spoil it but to let you know that if you do stick with Extraction, that is your reward. Otherwise, the plot feels like reheated leftovers from a hundred other movies about sullen warriors seeking redemption, and the mood wobbles awkwardly between cautionary tale about the drug trade’s brutal cost and fist-pumping action movie full of “cool” fight moves. (Heads up: Tyler Rake actually kills someone with a rake.)
Hemsworth plays Tyler Rake like Lebowski Thor if he swapped his beers for pre-workout and got back in the gym. Like most dudely hyper-competent action heroes, he has a tragic backstory — a missing son seen in flashbacks and dreams — and a gruff exterior that masks emotional wounds that refuse to heal. He doesn’t have a magical hammer or lightning powers, but Tyler Rake is still a borderline superhero. He takes down armies of masked baddies single-handedly and sometimes knocks people into the air with the sheer force of his punches or kicks. (And, again, he kills one guy with an actual rake.) Extraction was produced by Avengers directors Anthony and Joe Russo, who know a thing or two drawing performances out of Hemsworth that are both melancholic and macho. (Joe Russo also wrote the screenplay based on a graphic novel he co-created several years ago.)
Still, there’s not much more to Extraction than Hemsworth’s soulful butt-kicking. There’s an attempt to mirror Tyler Rake’s emotional plight with the dilemma faced by his main rival in the film, a local heavy named Saju (Randeep Hooda) who wants to claim Ovi for purposes that are at once noble and selfish, but so many buff dudes weeping about their sons only serves to underscore what a cliche the figure of the father seeking absolution has become in the world of gritty action thrillers. Meanwhile, the drug lord (Priyanshu Painyuli) who’s kidnapped Ovi and seems to hire the entire city of Dhaka to retrieve him from Tyler Rake is so purely evil — ordering brutal killings, even demanding children chop their fingers off when they fail him — his mere presence flattens any sense of moral complexity the movie tries to imbue to the rest of the cast around him. (The surprise appearance late in the film by the star of a popular Netflix series is also so random it’s genuinely distracting.)
The streaming factor here is not to be overstated. Would I recommend someone pay $15 to see Extraction in a movie theater? Probably not. Once again, Netflix’s uneven programming benefits greatly from the company’s business model: You’ve already signed up, you don’t have to leave the house, you don’t need to get a babysitter — what do you have to lose beyond 100 minutes while you’re already stuck at home because of a pandemic? Not much.
Plus, Netflix offers you the ability to really savor that one great action sequence. I’m not sure Hargrave intended you to stop, freeze frame, or use the ten-seconds backwards button to really look for the hidden edits or admire Hemsworth’s graceful thrashings ... but you could. That’s part of what makes Netflix what it is. I don’t think I’ve ever written a review where I told the reader to bypass a film’s first act just to watch a a legitimately memorable moment later. But Extraction made me consider it.
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