Extraction movie review: meet the sociopathic white savior

part of my On Netflix Globally series
MaryAnn’s quick take: Who are we rooting for in this accidental parody of the empty absurdity of modern action films? Everyone is awful, or a human macguffin. This is soulless technical wankery bereft of humor or humanity.
I’m “biast” (pro): love Chris Hemsworth; have liked the Russo Brothers’ Marvel movies
I’m “biast” (con): nothing
I have not read the source material
(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)
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Tyler Rake (Chris Hemsworth) is a fearless black market mercenary with nothing left to lose when his skills are solicited to rescue the kidnapped son of an imprisoned international crime lord.

This is a fake movie, surely. This is a parody whipped up — in no more two seconds, barely requiring any thought at all — in order to highlight the complete and empty absurdity of what action movies have become. It has to be. Doesn’t it?

Very boom.

Except Extraction is real, that’s the actual description of it, and it’s new on Netflix all over the planet.

Every cliché imaginable has been poured into the “character” of Tyler *snort* Rake: He’s suicidal. He drinks too much. He is haunted by gauzy memories of a nicer life. And yet he is also practically superhuman: recklessly yet successfully audacious; gifted with hyperendurance and seeming precognition in the face of a literal army of opponents coming at him from every angle; able to pick himself up from *checks notes* getting rammed by a speeding car to just keep going.

Rake is the “man who does this sort of thing” called in when Ovi (Rudhraksh Jaiswal), the teenaged son of a drug kingpin, is kidnapped for ransom by another, rival drug kingpin, and needs to be rescued. The kid is being held somewhere in… oh, let’s say Dhaka, Bangladesh. It could have been anywhere suitably “exotic” where a white savior like Rake can do his thing among brown people either dishonorable, inept, or downright malevolent; in the graphic novel Ciudad upon which this is based, it’s Ciudad del Este, Paraguay. Here in Dhaka, the sky is an apocalyptic yellow and the cops are all corrupt, and also — conveniently — there’s a guy who owes Rake who can be called upon in a moment of need.

Extraction Chris Hemsworth
Much exotic.

Who are we rooting for? Everyone is awful here, sociopathic but otherwise blank slates of testosterone-fueled rage. Extraction tries, in the opening scene, to generation some sympathy for the kidnap victim — poor little rich kid, lonely and isolated, etc — but he’s never anything more than a human macguffin to be tossed around by the opposing forces.

Rake? Nah. Hemsworth (Men in Black: International, Bad Times at the El Royale) is way more plausible, way more vulnerable, as Marvel’s demigod Thor. Which isn’t Hemsworth’s fault: he has absolutely nothing to work with here. (The script is by multi-Marvel director Joe Russo [Avengers: Endgame, Captain America: Civil War], who cowrote the graphic novel with Ande Parks and his creative partner and brother Anthony Russo.) He’s a finer actor than he is often given credit for, yet his robust physicality is never less than ridiculously cartoonish here, and there’s not a lick of humor at play, either, something else that he’s sneakily terrific with. And the constant moping that Rake is allegedly engaging in is horrific, though probably not in any way that’s intended. When the shit hits the fan and the mission goes sideways, he is instructed by his handler (Golshifteh Farahani: Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge, Finding Altamira) to kill the kid himself, because they won’t be getting their fee, and the money is the only reason they’re there. (Rake is a mercenary, recall, not any kind of cop or soldier or other brand of Good Guy.) There is no suggestion that cutting his losses like this isn’t an ordinary part of an ordinary job for Rake, and the movie makes a halfhearted attempt to mine a bit of disgusting suspense from this “dilemma” of Rake’s. Will he dump the kid? Are those sun-dappled memories of a little blond boy that haunt him the only thing stopping him? Never mind a hero; this isn’t even the stuff of an anti-hero.

Extraction Chris Hemsworth Randeep Hooda
Many violence.

(Farahani, by the way, is the only woman in the film. Though the gender dynamics of Extracted could be worse: in Ciudad, the kidnap victim is a young woman.)

Just when you’re wondering whether banal meathead Tyler Rake (Rake? really?) beating up and killing a nonstop parade of disposable brown guys — but the brown guys are all brutal so it’s okay, okay? — is all Extraction has going for it, we get to the Big Chase scene, and you realize that this is all anyone involved had a hard-on for. For a solid ten minutes, Sam Hargrave — a stunt coordinator on big-budget action flicks (Atomic Blonde, The Accountant), including some Russo Brothers projects, making his feature debut as *checks notes* director — zooms his camera in and out of cars and trucks, up and through apartment buildings, and off roofs and into streets, as Rake and the kid run from Even Worse guys. It’s one of those seemingly uncut sequences that can, theoretically, get you caught up in intense action thrills… but that only works if we care about the people in the middle of them. In Extraction, it’s nothing more than soulless technical wankery — look, ma, what I can do! — with no humanity powering it at all.

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