Extraction is perfect for the Netflix brand, a high action ‘blockbuster’ that has the appearance of something risque. A film with intense violence, an ambitious filming style and a team directly linked to Avengers: Endgame, a film that instantly adds an invested audience. Starring Chris Hemsworth and embracing a foreign locale, it seems to have everything to make it a bonafide hit for Netflix. The only real issue is that, apart from a team made up of former Endgame creatives, none of this is really true. Extraction has a story, but it doesn’t. The filming is inventive, but it isn’t. The ultra-violence isn’t even honest. Netflix’s latest ultimately feels like a product, not a film.
Telling the story of mercenary Tyler Rake (Hemsworth), who is assigned to rescue a young boy called Ovi (Rudhraksh Jaiswal), the son of a known drug lord in a turf war with a rival making a power play for his business. What was sold as a simple extraction gets more complicated when their escape is ruined and they are stranded in a city overrun by gangsters and corrupt police, all looking for them.
Opening on a day in the life of a crime boss’ sons sheltered life, Extraction begins but never finishes a tale of fathers and sons, instead drowning under the weight of the torrent of emotional abuse that comes from a story that wallows in grief and sadness while proclaiming to be a lively action extravaganza. The constant threat and elaborate fight sequences are always buried by the idea that this isn’t something you actively wanted to watch. Director Sam Hargrave wants you to feel every hit Tyler takes but instead this warmly lit, brightly coloured and fast paced picture constantly feels cold, uninviting and muted. It is possible to delve into weighty issues and not be weighed down by them. Extraction embraces them and sinks.
While Hargrave avoids settling in, instead wanting to tell a frantic tale with few pauses, the way he maintains pace through seemingly intricate long takes, a overabundance of shaky cam and an invasive, constantly close camera sometimes fail to mesh. An extended car chase, which looks like one big take akin to the one from Reed Morano’s The Rhythm Section earlier in the year is especially messy. Maintaining focus becomes a chore you must endure while when the camera settles and lets the action flow and speak for itself, Extraction truly feels singular and boundary pushing. Oftentimes here, a steady hand proves more effective while never losing narrative flow.
While it has been sold as an ultra-violent epic, something Netflix has actively used in marketing it to becoming their most watched movie on its debut, it never feels honest in how it is depicted. For a film intent on displaying brutality, it often shies away from it. Strategically placed cuts and flashes of blood give the appearance of graphic ferocity while never committing. It isn’t necessarily a problem but it does make moments that should feel damaging, both physically and emotionally feel utterly fake and infuriatingly inconsistent.
If anything, this is the real problem that cripples Hargrave’s directorial debut. While there are moments of innovation, they are often erased by moments that are clearly being held back for one reason or another. Extraction ends up being just another story about a human terminator taking on what feels like the world with no consequences because of a sorely lacking sense of who or what Tyler is and why in the hell we should care.