The word extraction sounds awfully clinical, but there’s nothing clinical about the movie “Extraction.” A brutally efficient action flick from first-time feature director Sam Hargrave, the Netflix release drops Chris Hemsworth in a city where pretty much everybody wants him dead, and in return he makes them pay in all sorts of different, painful ways.
Hargrave has an extensive résumé as an actor specializing in action flicks, a second-unit director in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, a stunt double for Chris Evans as Captain America and a stunt coordinator on “Avengers: Endgame” and “Captain America: Civil War,” among others. But while “Avengers” director Joe Russo wrote “Extraction” and served as one of its producers with his brother Anthony, this is not a Marvel-scale production by any means.
Instead, it’s a tough and dirty drama that puts action first: There may be a few breathers for characters’ exploration, but for the most part, Hemsworth’s character spends almost every waking moment shooting and punching and stabbing and running and driving and shooting some more.
“Extraction” is effective and more than a little exhausting, but in a way, the smaller scale helps. In this era where CG lets you put anything you can think of on the screen, the stakes don’t always feel high during the epic battles in superhero movies — but when it’s two guys duking it out in an alley, the punches can look as if they hurt more than anything Thanos might throw at Thor.
Hemsworth plays Tyler Rake, a mercenary who is hired to retrieve the kidnapped son of a drug lord from India. A rival drug kingpin, Amir Asif (Priyanshu Painyuli) has taken the boy to a hideout in Dhaka, in Bangladesh, where he controls the police and military and is essentially untouchable.
But Rake has serious skills and a backstory that pretty much defines the term nothing left to lose, so he doesn’t have a problem with suicide missions. “You’re hoping that if you spin the chamber enough times, you’re going to catch a bullet,” says his indispensable aide, Nik (played by the always-terrific Golshifteh Farahani, who doesn’t have enough to do).
And since Rake can walk into a room full of a dozen armed men and leave them all dead or maimed in a minute or two, in short order he frees the boy, Ovi (Rudhkraksh Jaiswal). Naturally, that’s when his trouble really starts, because Amir immediately sends every cop, soldier and tough dude in Dhaka after Rake. Plus, it turns out that the guy who hired him actually just wanted him to do the dirty work, and has sent his own heavy (Randeep Hooda) to kill Rake and take the kid.
It kind of throws the notion of good guys and bad guys out the window, because every single person Rake encounters has reason to want him dead, and a lot of them have the means to achieve it. It puts the film squarely in the fighting-your-way-through-enemy-territory genre that has produced notable films from “The Warriors” to “The Raid: Redemption,” and fight Rake does.
Two hours of this is a lot, even with a few stops for character development. As good as Hargrave is at staging and shooting action, you eventually reach a point of diminishing returns in a film built around fistfights and automatic weaponry.
But Hargrave knows what he’s doing, particularly in extended sequences meant to appear as hyperkinetic single shots. And Hemsworth makes you feel for the character even as he takes a licking and keeps on ticking long after he should have been one more entry in the film’s sizeable body count.
The film gets more emotional as it goes, so that by the end you may find yourself feeling something other than that you’ve been pummeled for a couple of hours. And even if you do just feel pummeled — well, at least it’s been a very expert pummeling.