Sam Hargrave’s directorial debut couldn’t have gone much better.
The former stunt coordinator and second unit director landed Thor himself, Australian actor Chris Hemsworth to play the film’s lead with a script written by “Avengers: Endgame” co-director Joe Russo.
Within its first month, over 90 million people have seen Hargrave’s “Extraction” and a sequel to the Netflix original action thriller has already been greenlit for production after the coronavirus pandemic ends.
“Extraction” follows Tyler Rake, a former Australian special forces operative turned mercenary tasked with rescuing the son of a top Indian drug lord from his main Bangladeshi rival. Infiltrating into the heart of Dhaka, Bangladesh’s capital city, Rake must avoid rogue agents, police and military personnel as well as drug syndicate members to sneak the teen out of the country safely.
Hemsworth is an exceptional choice to play Tyler Rake, a solid actor who knows how to use his imposing physicality effectively in combat situations. Hemsworth and Hargrave work together to create a dynamic energy to the way Rake moves through a fight sequence, always pushing forward into the next attack and relying on instinct to propel Rake through a constant survival mode.
The Australian actor also does a solid job of remaining numb to the outside world for the majority of “Extraction,” only allowing Rake’s emotions to boil to the surface once things have broken down too far.
Most of the rest of the cast is unremarkably bland, aside from Rudhraksh Jaiswal as the kidnapped teen, Ovi, who shows appropriate fear and a great amount of heart, and David Harbour in a solid supporting role as a former teammate of Rake’s trying to survive in Bangladesh as a mercenary.
The best action movie to be released since movie theaters closed in March, “Extraction” excels in the stunt-heavy sequences that prove to be in Hargrave’s wheelhouse.
A combination of tactical gun battles and hand-to-hand combat in close proximity to the camera, the film evokes both the brutality of the “John Wick” franchise and the finesse of “Atomic Blonde,” a Charlize Theron-led action spy thriller that Hargrave served as stunt coordinator on.
The film’s signature set piece is an 11-minute chase sequence to conclude the first act of “Extraction,” where Hargrave uses techniques made popular in films like last year’s “1917” to cut the scene together in a way where it appears to the audience to be one continuous shot.
Cinematography by Newton Thomas Sigel – solid throughout – is especially effective here as he weaves audiences through a forest into a small town, in and out of buildings and car crashes without slowing the relentless pace and explosive firepower.
There’s an expert fluidity to how the camera dances around the action in full 360 degrees, synced in time with Hargrave’s flawless fight choreography that has Hemsworth fend off up to five assailants at a time with both his fists and an array of weapons at Rake’s disposal. This sequence, along with a pivotal set piece on a crowded bridge, are worth taking a chance on the film alone.
“Extraction” tries very hard to be something more than just brutality. The screenplay – penned by Russo based on a story from several writers including Russo’s brother Anthony – works at layering multiple relationships between fathers and sons as motivation for action in the plot.
One father forces another father to rescue his son by threatening harm to the second father’s son; Rake refuses to give up on his assignment because he sees his own son in Ovi and cannot bring himself to let Ovi die.
In between all the gruesome killing and intense chase sequences, “Extraction” cranks the volume down to nearly zero with mundane, predictable melodrama that serves as both emotional palate cleanser and bathroom break time before things kick into gear again.
Like something straight out of a morning soap opera, familial strife and personal loss are shown poorly to an excruciating degree as Hemsworth’s Rake floats in and out of hazy flashbacks set to an intentionally wistful score from composers Alex Belcher and Henry Jackman.
While necessary to flesh out the plot, these interludes are so poorly executed by Hargrave and his team that they become a wet blanket for the entire film.
But for a director taking a significant step up from crew work to a major Netflix feature, “Extraction” highlights Hargrave’s immense talent crafting excellent action sequences that lift the entire project to must see territory for about 30-35 minutes of a nearly two-hour film.
Casual viewing on a streaming platform is the ideal scenario for watching this action thriller that will entertain on a Friday evening at home.