At its core, Extraction is a love story about knives that long to be inside people’s faces and bullets that only want to marry people’s intestines. It’s the kind of action movie where everyone’s first reaction to seeing it is “This is somehow more violent than I expected.” That’s really saying something, because violence was likely very much expected.
Although more in debt to something like The Raid, Extraction begs inevitable comparisons to John Wick. Both are directed by former stuntmen and both have scripts that consist of just the sentence “Sad angry man kills everybody.” The Sad Angry Man here is played by the largest Hemsworth, Chris. Part of the film’s brutality is by virtue of Hemsworth’s stupidly massive proportions. If the lithe and nimble Keanu Reeves makes John Wick sometimes feel like murder ballet, Hemsworth’s Extraction is Stomp.
Sad Angry Man’s backstory is a PB&J of cliches with the crust cut off. His homicide engine isn’t fueled by puppy death like Mr. Wick’s. He rages because he lost a child. Sad Angry Man was a military dude of some sort and is now a mercenary or something. He’s been tasked with retrieving the kidnapped son of a crime kingpin in Bangladesh. The motivations of various allies and foes bend and twist, but nobody cares. Nobody. Not just the audience. The speed at which characters befriend former enemies and murder former friends is some straight-up Mean Girls business.
Shockingly, Extraction almost instantly passes the Bechdel test. That is the “Brutally Engage Criminals and Hurt Dumb Evildoers Lots” test. The one actress in the film is basically Sad Angry Man’s tech support, and the second woman in IMDB’s cast list for the film plays someone called “Cute Girl.” All that said, triple bonus points for not making Sad Angry Man’s tragic tale of woe involve a girlfriend/wife whose death haunts him. It’s almost refreshing that childhood cancer is the catalyst here, which is a truly awful thing to say in literally every other aspect of life.
As Ron Swanson, who would love this movie, may say: Director Sam Hargrave knows what he’s about, son. The action is crisp, with coherent cinematography. The characters pop despite the shallowest of depths. The violence changes tempo often, moving from rapid close-quarters brawling to measured shooting at a distance. The seemingly obligatory “one-shot” sequence is a veritable clown car of different battle forms, with two chases (car and foot) and a gun, knife, and fist fight. Insofar as it accomplishes what it sets out to do, Extraction is maybe-sorta/probably the best Netflix original film thus far.
Violent escapism can be cathartic. In many ways, we are a nation in cages right now. We are frustrated about things that cannot be directly fought. We are angry at a wide variety of people that we definitely should not actually punch. We are a shivering kettle of boiling water that is hissing steam. Extraction likely won’t tip your short-and-stout little teapot over and pour it completely out, but for a few hours, maybe let murder-Thor take the wheel.
Grade = B+