Let’s talk a little bit about closing-credit rules of thumb. For most films, shave five minutes off the posted running time. Three-hour and/or big-time action movie? Double it. Indeed, the most memorable aspect of Extraction (debuting today on Netflix) is how it devotes 14 of its 117 minutes to closing credits. That’s a ratio unseen since 2015’s Point Break remake; at least here, you get real-deal Chris Hemsworth rather than sixth-tier Aussie hunk Luke Bracey.
If your fingers are quick enough to escape Netflix’s credit-eclipsing algorithm, you’ll learn Tony and Nate were the Americanized nicknames of Hemsworth’s physical therapists. Maybe you’ll chuckle at the names of the dozen visual effects companies responsible for all those unconvincing CGI explosions you just watched. Mainly you’ll marvel at how so many hundreds of almost certainly interesting people could deliver something so nonchalant and nondescript that it could — in ways thematic and mathematical — be described as “88% actual movie.”
In truth, the percentage of all-around effort and inspiration is lower on every front — from Hemsworth abandoning the pain, pathos, personality and pip-pip humor he’s perfected since a rocky start in the Thor franchise to protracted fight scenes meant to evoke The Raid while only conveying how clumsy it looks when Americans try to front on that stuff. Imagine pumping the brakes on that film’s finest moments for a slow-footed white guy, and you’ve got the speed at which Extraction generally cruises for its bruises.
Said Americans are producers / co-writers Joe and Anthony Russo — the late-stage architects of Marvel’s Cinematic Universe — and Sam Hargrave, the brothers’ go-to stunt coordinator in their MCU films. In short, it’s a low-stakes pal-around genre movie not unlike last year’s 21 Bridges, also produced by the Russos but starring fellow MCU staple Chadwick Boseman. The difference? That cop thriller was more cognizant of its limitations and comfortable working within them, as was its star. Adapting from their own graphic novel, Ciudad, the Russos intend an echo to Man on Fire with the story of a melancholy mercenary finding purpose in protecting a pubescent. It plays more like Dude Gathering Kindling, with only a climactic shootout on a bridge between Bangladesh and India evoking the sinew of the finest Russo/Hargrave hour. Plus, Hemsworth’s way with wrangling woolly moments is gone altogether. Indeed, what passes for comic relief is his Tyler Rake actually killing someone with a rake and a scene in which he slaps around some murderously overeager kids and calls them “the Goonies from hell.”
Said youngsters are a street team for Amir Asif (Priyanshu Painyuli), Bangladesh’s answer to Pablo Escobar and this Netflix film’s answer to how the algorithm can also suggest Narcos for you. Asif is also more obsessed with cutting off fingers more than any movie villain since Durant in Darkman. He constantly clashes with Ovi Mahajan (Pankaj Tripathi), his rival across the border in India; after Ovi’s imprisonment, Asif seizes on an opportunity to consolidate power by targeting Ovi’s son, Ovi Jr. (Rudhraksh Jaiswal). Just how sad is Ovi Jr. that his dad is locked up? Not many movies show you a character playing his own sad piano theme.
Unable to pay the ransom after India’s government freezes his assets, Ovi Sr. asks his second-in-command, Saju (Randeep Hooda), to dupe a merc into doing the dirty work of Ovi Jr.’s — oh, hey, would ya look at that — extraction and then double-crossing him.
“There’s a man who does this sort of thing,” Saju says. Ain’t there always? This guy can jump 100 feet off a cliff into a lake and then meditate AT THE BOTTOM while his friends freak out. That’s Tyler Rake. His body is a road map of pain, incorrectly folded and jammed into a glove compartment for years on end. And if the blurry flashes of sun-kissed faces and legs in his mind don’t clue you in, the line from his cohort Nik (Golshifteh Farahani) will seal it: Rake is hoping if he spins the chamber enough times, he’ll catch a bullet. Maybe in that regard, Saju’s bait-and-switch will be a blessing in disguise. But Rake’s “survival mode” (as he actually refers to it) kicks in after the betrayal, sending him and Ovi Jr. on the run from every gun in Dhaka.
That hunt kicks off with an extended camera-trick one-shot amounting to little more than a superfluous flex. As it moves from cars to stairwells to roofs to streets, the sequence is more perfunctory than pulse-pounding and is not once, not twice, but thrice reliant upon a seemingly silent oncoming vehicle crashing into the shot. If nothing else, the bit goes on so long — but not as long as the closing credits — that you wonder if the rest of Extraction will play out that way and coast on style points. Alas, the illusion is shattered by another iffy, plastic-ish CGI explosion.
At the one-hour mark, David Harbour shows up as Gaspar, a rapscallion whose life Rake saved long ago and who gives Rake and Ovi Jr. a suspiciously safe hideout. There, Ovi Jr. asks if Tyler Rake is actually his name (the Russos seem awfully insecure about that choice) and Rake unburdens about his tortured past to Ovi Jr. because it’s That Time of the Movie. Ovi Jr. then quotes some Paulo Coelho to let you know what’s on the Russos’ nightstands, to which Hemsworth brings less contemplative awe than Ogre did to the possibility of “c-a-t” actually spelling “dog” in Revenge of the Nerds II: Nerds in Paradise. Look, Man on Fire isn’t great, either, but it at least tries to put lumps in throats rather than just bullets. This sequence also has the unintentional effect of making you wish Harbour and Hemsworth would have traded roles for this one, but it also has a fight scene in which someone’s wearing cargo shorts. Trade-offs!
If there’s a silver lining to Extraction, it’s the potential to put Hooda on Hollywood’s radar — or at least on that of people making far more fun VOD action fodder. The script never explains how Saju, himself a one-man wrecking machine, couldn’t nab Ovi Jr. on his own, but Hooda gives the character a more recognizable soul than anyone else here and in just a sliver of time. It’s not often you see a lackey sharing a legitimate, loving relationship with a wife and son, and in these fleeting moments, Extraction channels the conflicted morality of S. Craig Zahler’s work. But as it turns out, violence is the only language Extraction truly speaks, and not even that is fluent.