Chris Hemsworth stars as Tyler Rake, a black ops mercenary tasked with rescuing a crime lord’s kidnapped son. The mission brings Rake to Bangladesh, where he is forced to fend off the seemingly infinite number of men working for the kidnapper, a rival crime lord. Before discussing anything else, let me highlight just how good Hemsworth is in this role. Despite his dumb, generic action hero name, Rake is surprisingly engaging. He’s believably tough and intimidating, leaping between buildings and taking down waves of enemy forces without flinching. Yet simultaneously, Hemsworth subtly conveys the idea that his stoicism comes from professional and personal trauma, even carrying a late scene where these hardships are specifically addressed.
Although the script doesn’t dedicate much time to characterisation beyond Rake, the supporting cast are largely impressive. As the character with the second most screen time, this is most true of Rudhraksh Jaiswal as the kidnapped boy, Ovi. Jaiswal rises to the challenge of conveying a wide range of emotions, from terror to despair to an eerie calmness towards his situation, and is consistently engaging to watch. However, the contrast in Ovi’s mood between scenes is jarring, as if the writers decided not to include most of the scenes of him bonding with Rake. Subsequently, I felt like I was watching a series of separate showcases for Jaiswal but couldn’t observe an overall emotional arc for the character.
I was also delighted by the brief appearance of David Harbour as Gaspar, an old teammate of Rake’s living in Dhaka. Given EXTRACTION is a Netflix film, I should note the possibility that including the star of one of the service’s most popular shows might just be an act of synergy. Indeed, Gaspar is a world-weary tough guy looking for some peace and quiet much like Stranger Things’ Jim Hopper. All of this might have been a problem if Harbour weren’t such a scene-stealer, turning on a dime from jovial reflection to bubbling rage. Similarly, his natural rapport with Hemsworth adds some welcome detail to Rake’s backstory.
Above all though, EXTRACTION deserves to be watched for the vivid action setpieces Hargrave creates. The most widely discussed of these will surely be the sequence shortly after Rake first rescues Ovi, a continuous shot which ultimately lasts just over ten minutes. As the mission falls apart and the pair are pursued by gang members and corrupt police officers (among others), the action evolves from a car chase to a game of hide and seek in a crowded apartment building. The camerawork here is incredible, moving through windows and circling around fistfights to heighten the tension; at several points I genuinely wondered what VFX trickery was used to pull it off. Similarly, Rake’s climactic crossing of a bridge crawling with enemies is intensified by rapid cuts from multiple perspectives, leaving me to wonder which character would be made aware of the other’s presence first.
Unfortunately, the impact of the bridge scene was somewhat diminished due to its use in an utterly pointless cold open that exemplifies the film’s insecurities. EXTRACTION employs the cliched ‘[insert amount of time] earlier’ stinger after showing Rake on the bridge, cutting back to Ovi’s life before his capture. Not only did the flashforward fail to offer any information which would become more meaningful throughout the runtime, by my count it actually breaks the film’s timeline. That is, Rake’s assault on the bridge apparently takes place two days after Ovi is kidnapped. Without boring you with my math, there is at least an extra day in between unaccounted for by the filmmakers by sheer virtue of which scenes take place at day and night respectively.
So why use the cold open? Probably out of fear that audiences wouldn’t be interested without Chris Hemsworth in the first scene. This same lack of faith in the film’s own ideas is likely also why the exterior Dhaka scenes have been colour corrected with an off-putting yellow filter. I, for one, found the setting was already memorable and distinct, so this decision in particular was baffling; the filter’s only effect was making the city look dirty. Notwithstanding this, it’s still easy to become engrossed in EXTRACTION’s more successful elements. If the outstanding action and committed performances are any indication, I’m sure this won’t be the last we see of Tyler Rake.