In the time that’s passed since Avengers: Endgame was released to much fanfare almost exactly a year ago, the MCU’s biggest stars have experienced somewhat mixed fortunes in the projects they’ve opted to pursue. For example, while Chris Evans was very good value in Rian Johnson’s excellent whodunnit Knives Out, Robert Downey Jr received rather less acclaim for his turn in the critically derided Dolittle – with his dubious attempt at a Welsh accent coming in for particular flak.
Chris Hemsworth – who will, of course, still be appearing in the MCU in future films – appears to have gone down a different route to both Evans and Downey Jr, swapping the showboating arrogance of Thor for the grisly, stoic machismo of Tyler Rake in Extraction, the new action thriller from first-time feature director Sam Hargrave (Endgame directors Joe and Antony Russo serve as executive producers, with Joe also having written the script).
Any look at the promotional material for this film would indicate that it’s covering fairly well-trodden ground. Indeed, taken as a trio, the poster, title and official synopsis (“Rival Gangs. A Kidnapped Kid. Impossible Odds. What starts as just another mission turns into his best shot at redemption”) all point to the rather generic. And while it’s true to stay that this film doesn’t exactly reinvent the wheel, nor offers too much in the way of surprise, to dismiss it on those grounds would actually sell it rather short: on the whole, Extraction is an engaging watch full of well-directed action and entertaining bluster.
Set against the backdrop of a feud between rival drug gangs in Mumbai and Dhaka, the plot centres on the fate of Ovi – the son of an international crime lord who is imprisoned and held for ransom. It falls to Tyler Rake (Hemsworth), part of a network of mercenaries, to accept the task of rescuing the boy – a task made even more difficult when Saju, a friend of Ovi’s father, attempts to stage his own rescue mission.
Naturally, this situation leads to many tense action scenes, with Hemsworth dispensing with a slew of gangsters and cops in all manner of brutal – and sometimes fairly novel – ways. There are also a range of enjoyable set pieces, including a car chase through the bustling Dhaka streets, a well choreoagraphed knife fight between Tyler and Saju that is repeatedly interrupted by traffic, and a brutal brawl with a group of street kids in the employ of villain Amir – the “Pablo Escobar of Dhaka.”
There’s a brooding intensity throughout (aided by Henry Jackman’s prominent score and Newton Thomas Sigel’s cinematography) that is clearly trying to emulate the likes of Denis Villeneuve’s Sicario – the sequel to which has a plot that bears similarity to Extraction – and while this film is not of the same calibre as Villeneuve’s, it’s well paced enough and contains just the right amount of genuinely exciting action to keep most viewers firmly glued to their seats.
There’s no doubt that the biggest pull for most viewers will be the presence of Hemsworth, and he plays the action hero role to good effect here, embodying a character who has motivations beyond his mere mercenary status. His character has a tragic backstory which is alluded to throughout (we see a not particularly subtle change in Tyler whenever he is in the presence of a child) and explicitly mentioned later on, and while this backstory itself is hardly original, it does add another dimension to the film.
In fact, the internal conflict that Tyler’s past has instilled in him leads to one of the best scenes – a confrontation with a long-term ally played by a scenery-chewing David Harbour, who berates Tyler for what he perceives as a change in his personality – “You’re a mercenary right Tyler, why don’t you act the mercenary?”
The other performances, meanwhile, are also of a decent enough standard – with youngster Rudhraksh Jaiswal impressing as Ovi in his first major role and Randeep Hooda giving all he’s got as Saju, a character who’s put through the wringer more than any other.
It seems unlikely that Extraction will live particularly long in the memory – there’s no one particular aspect that really sets it apart from other films of its type, nor does it seem to have much potential for launching a new franchise – but for an evening in (and there’s no shortage of those on the horizon) you could do a lot worse. It’s the kind of solid star vehicle that isn’t as common as it once was – and an enjoyable way in which to spend a couple of hours.