Extraction – 2020

Director Sam Hargrave
Screenplay Joe Russo based on Ciudad by Andre Parks, Joe Russo, Fernando León González
Starring Chris Hemsworth, Rudhraksh Jaiswal, Randeep Hooda, Golshifteh Farahani, Pankaj Tripathi, Priyanshu Painyuli, David Harbour

In the evolution of stuntmen turned directors, Sam Hargrave has created a gun fu film that is kinetically similar to the John Wick series. The differences are somewhat subtle, but overall the film works as a one off story…unless they want to make it into a ridiculous series.

Chris Hemsworth is Tyler Rake. He served in the military, then moved on into the role of special ops for hire. Like most monosyllabic hero-types, he holds a deep reservoir of pain, which pushes him to excel without feeling anything close to satisfaction. When discussing his motivations, another character says adroitly:

“You drown not by falling into the river, but by staying submerged in it.”

This is a nice line for a film that doesn’t require a deep thought.

Rake is brought in to recover the son of one of the two big drug lords of India, who is kidnapped by the other kingpin. The reason for this seems to be annoyance as much as anything. What we discover is the father of the kidnapped son, Ovi Mahajan, sits in prison with only limited resources. He puts his number 2, Saju (Hooda) in charge of recovery, with the looming threat over his head. This makes all of the difference in the end.

What it does require is smart fighting scenes. The Keanu Reeves series paved the way for fight scenes that look like the kind of moves someone who knows how to fight might use. This involves a lot of close quarters combat, some parkour and hitting people with the butt or barrel of the gun. While it may seem silly to do the latter, viewing the fights, it makes more sense. The antagonists are often covered virtually from head to toe with body armor. It requires a precise shot to get them. Sometimes blunt force is more effective.

One of the gifts of Hargrave’s approach is the understanding that people just don’t give up after they’ve been hit once. Viewers who are used to exhaling when they think everyone should be done will be surprised to see no names jump back up almost routinely. This is a reward for those who’ve always bristled at the brittle foes of most films.

Hemsworth shows he’s up to the challenge of being a leading man outside of a Thor film. We see some comic chops thrown in, but that is not the character this film needs. He’s stoic, for the most part being met by the same by the surprising Hooda. Their scenes together, whether they are fighting or conversing has the feeling of equals in both intensity and intelligence.

Hooda, a star in India, overcomes a ridiculous hairstyle to become someone with whom to be reckoned. His has an incredible charisma that fills the screen with someone who looks competent and multi-layered. He’s given room to work with in the script, and he works it effectively.

Another pleasant surprise in the film is the beautifully deadly Farahani as Rake’s contemporary, Khan. She has reservations on Rake’s mental state before the mission. She is Rake’s support system and potentially more. Those rolling their eyes at the last thought should just wait until the third act. She passes the Bechdel test easily.

The film falters somewhat in the storyline involving the use of children as soldiers. There are some horrific images to start. From there, we see several points where Rake puts off dealing with them, as to avoid hurting those seen as innocent. Anyone who doesn’t see how this turns out does not get a cookie.

Extraction is a very good film. It will be a big hit on Netflix for a while when the streaming giant needs something to keep everyone happy in quarantine. I know I will be watching it again soon.

(**** out of *****)

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