Extraction (dir. Sam Hargrave, 2020) – Tyler Rake embarks on a mission to rescue the kidnapped son of an imprisoned crime lord.
Meet black market mercenary Tyler Rake (Chris Hemsworth). The Australian has been sent to India to rescue a drug lord’s son Ovi (Rudhraksh Jaiswal), whom a rival linchpin has kidnapped for ransom.
It is supposed to be a simple extraction. The hero charges all guns blazing into the streets, forms an emotional bond with Ovi, and likely saves the day. But Tyler is not the only man in business. Unable to afford the ransom or the mercenary fees, Ovi’s father has also sent his own henchman Saju Rav (Randeep Hooda) to do the job himself.
The plot beckons questions. Why would Ovi readily follow a stranger with a murderous rage, instead of his own father’s partner? Why couldn’t Saju have done the job himself in the first place? How did a South Asian feud manage to implicate a mercenary from down under?
Granted it is clear that Extraction is gunning for a new heir to the thrones of John Rambo, McClane or Wick (oh God, it’s the first name, isn’t it?). And as with most of these movies, plot is secondary. But the sheer amount of double-crossing and backstory quickly invites scrutiny that does not bode well for the weak ploy.
If the set-up feels too convoluted for its own good, the settings has its fair share of complications. Based on the graphic novel Ciudad by Joe Russo, the story had originally been set in South America. The movie not only shifts to the cities of Mumbai and Dhaka; the scenes were actually shot in Ahmedabad and Bangkok. And it shows. The generic backdrops of crowded streets could have been anywhere.
Save for the people and plateshots, there is no telling which part of Asia this could be. Much like its leading man, Bangladesh and India are missing their usual vibrant personalities. There are far better ways to portray Asia with cultural sensitivities, much like what Sense8 accomplishes beautifully. But while the locations went to waste, it does offer the opportunity for South Asian actors to take up roles beyond stereotypes.
Thankfully, Extraction has other neat tricks up its sleeves. It is at its best when Tyler Rake and Saju Rav both leap into overdrive. Director Sam Hargrave brings his Marvel stunt experience to the game, delivering a 12-minute tracking shot that barely leaves time to breathe.
Car chases, gun battles, and Bucky Barnes-worthy knife fights ensue. The handheld camera motions mostly tauten the tension, only inducing nausea in parts. The choreography is spectacular, even behind the scenes, as the daredevil filmmaker straps himself to a car to make all of it happen.
It is exceptionally violent too. And perhaps, all that is enough to keep the action hounds satiated. But when mercenary Tyler Rake picks up a gardening rake and slams the weapon of his namesake into an unnamed ruffian, I do wish this had been a different film. If Extraction had taken itself less seriously, at least we can all have a laugh.
A testosterone-fuelled vehicle that entertains but trips over its frills, Extraction is unlikely to join the halls of action fame.