Streaming Fury: EXTRACTION
Let’s face it, the days of seeing b-action films on the big screen are over. Luckily, most of us have pretty big screens at home. Streaming Fury is a weekly column in which I scour streaming platforms for hard-asses and the explosions they casually walk away from.
I don’t think streaming action can get much higher-profile than Michael Bay’s 6 UNDERGROUND, but EXTRACTION - starring Chris Hemsworth, including a David Harbour cameo, and written by Marvel’s Joe Russo - comes pretty close. More people seem to be watching it as well, or at least talking about watching it. I’m not sure what made this one such a point of interest, but I appreciate all the attention it's getting as it’s about as beautifully cliche as they get while also being surprisingly well directed by stuntman Sam Hargrave.
As a public service, I’ll tell you the most important thing you need to know about EXTRACTION right away. Netflix has its running time at a little under two hours. For reasons probably involving algorithms I’ll never understand, that runtime is inflated by fifteen minutes of credits. So don’t worry about that.
Hemsworth plays a mercenary named Tyler Rake. I didn’t like the name at first, but he later kills two guys with a literal rake. We meet Rake on an action bridge, all fucked up and taking a bullet to the back. He falls down and has little dead child fantasy before the film flashes back to two days before.
We re-meet Tyler Rake as he naps on a cliff with two Australian goofballs. He puts down his beer and casually walks off the cliff into a lake far below. Does he swim to the surface? No, he meditates down there, telling us that our hero is either suicidal or terminally chill. (It turns out he’s suicidal, but very chill about it.)
A war buddy visits, telling him some drug dealer’s kid has been kidnapped in Dhaka and offers the job of extracting him. In most movies, Rake would say no and have to be talked into things. EXTRACTION turns the tables on this trope. Rake immediately says yes, because he’s suicidal, and has to talk his pal into giving him the job. She also sums his whole deal up in one line for everyone watching while checking Twitter: “You’re hoping if you spin the chamber enough times, you’re gonna catch a bullet.” Unfortunately, this is no LETHAL WEAPON. The suicide angle gets him to Dhaka and then stops being a part of his character once he starts killing everyone.
The violence in EXTRACTION looks great. We can see it just fine; no crazy editing gets in the way. It also wants to be in that upper tier with JOHN WICK and Gareth Evans’ films. Hemsworth’s gunplay focuses on no-nonsense headshots and tactical aiming. The hand-to-hand combat moves quickly and isn’t totally afraid of getting creative with things, though it peaks early on with the rake kills.
The action centerpiece is a long sequence made to look like one take. It’s not, of course, but what matters is whether the gimmick works to raise excitement. This one’s pretty good. It goes from a foot chase to a car chase to a cop massacre to a knife fight to another car chase. There are some fun reversals and camera reveals throughout, but I’ll remember it most for the car chase portion. Hemsworth gets verbal directions over the phone from someone with a satellite view of his position. Most of the turns he’s instructed to take are blocked. One turn he just misses altogether because there’s so much going on. Dude has to back up and try it again. I don’t recall ever seeing that happen in one of these before.
Hemsworth is the star but the film really belongs to Randeep Hooda’s Saju, Rake’s nemesis who needs the kid to ensure his boss, the kid’s dad, doesn’t murder his family. Saju looks wily and menacing and, frankly, cooler than Hemsworth. Tyler Rake throws a lot of shit at him, and he just won’t die. Meanwhile, his motivation is legitimate and morally secure, giving him a lot more pathos than Rake, who's only on this mission because he hopes to get popped in the noggin. When they eventually team up, it’s a real fist bumping moment because you want him to be heroic the whole time.
The film never fully regains its steam after the big action centerpiece and slows down maybe a bit too long for David Harbour’s bit. There's an extended scene where Hemsworth lets the annoying kid grill him long enough to get his entire tragic backstory that becomes increasingly silly the more emotional it’s supposed to play. Tyler Rake is tough looking and knows how to shove faces onto rakes, but I’m a Saju man.
It all comes to a head with Saju and Rake getting this kid across a bridge filled with military goons and additionally guarded by a sniper. The sniper stuff is particularly scary and keeps the sequence from devolving into a bunch of anonymous shooting. When it all wraps up, you look at the remaining running time completely mystified by the fifteen minutes left to go. All credits. This movie isn’t trying to be anything it’s not.
I liked it. EXTRACTION isn’t exemplary, but it isn’t lazy either. Someone went all out on the action, and the violence is real mean rather than fake mean. I mostly associate Hemsworth with comedy at this point, to the take no prisoners tone here surprised me. It’s a good commercial for Dhaka tourism because it is constantly Magic Hour. But it’s a bad commercial for Dhaka tourism because drug lords casually throw street kids off rooftops.
Speaking of kids, there’s one scene where Hemsworth beats the shit out of a whole gang of them, automatically making EXTRACTION a must-watch. I can’t wait for part two, which should hit Netflix in, what, a month?