The Bodhi-guard

The first thing one notices about Extraction is the bizarre name of Chris Hemsworth’s character.  Tyler Rake is clearly meant to be a punchy action-hero moniker, but there’s something off about it; it’s both too silly and not silly enough.  The script attempts to get ahead of the criticism by making a knowing joke about it, but it remains a distractingly misguided touch.  In short, the name doesn’t work, but at least the movie (mostly) does.

On-and-off mercenary Rake’s beer-fueled life in rural Australia is abruptly interrupted by Nik Khan (Golshifteh Farahani) another gun for hire offering him a lucrative but dangerous job.  Goons led by Bangladeshi drug kingpin Amir Asif (Priyanshu Painyuli) have kidnapped Ovi Mahajan (Rudhraksh Jaiswal), the teenage son of one of India’s most powerful gangsters.  Rake’s mission is deceptively simple: get Ovi home safely.  Once Rake arrives in Bangladesh, he quickly rescues Ovi from the clutches of his captors, but getting him to safety is another matter.  After the initial exit plan inevitably fails, Tyler finds himself on a one-man escort mission, trapped in a warzone with zero backup.

Extraction is packed with familiar tropes – from the plucky teen to the seemingly unstoppable henchman – but justifies them through its stylish execution.  The movie avoids total cliché with a few well-placed twists, though seasoned moviegoers will probably see them coming.  The dreariest, most obvious plot thread is Rake’s backstory.  You see, Rake is one of those tortured action heroes with PTSD and a death wish, stemming from (what else?) a dead son.  The movie feebly tackles this subplot by throwing it a few crumbs of dialogue and otherwise relying on impossibly corny flashbacks to Rake’s son frolicking on the beach.

But the story isn’t completely without dramatic weight.  Rake and Ovi develop a sweet, unforced friendship over the course of the movie, thanks to the understated dialogue between the two and the capable performances of Hemsworth and newcomer Jaiswal.  Their relationship isn’t the deepest or most original, but it’s convincing enough to make us care.  The other source of drama is cheaper, but no less effective: Extraction doesn’t shy away from the cruelty of its villains, showing a bold willingness to make them believably ruthless.

Extraction’s technical chops are fairly impressive, especially for a Netflix movie.  Though occasionally too saturated for its own good, the cinematography is attractive and evocative; particularly in the sweeping overhead shots of Dhaka.  The action, this movie’s raison d’être, is brutal and fluid, rejecting over-cutting in favor of showing off the elaborately-choreographed stunt work.  The best scenes are those that take place in tight quarters: potent mixes of hard-hitting martial arts and gun-fu.  Extraction is less adept, however, when it comes to larger-scale set-pieces.   The climax, an endless shootout set on a bridge, is the movie’s biggest scene, but far from its most interesting; and several of the CGI explosions look like something out of a video game.

By its third act, Extraction has begun to wear out its welcome.  At least the movie seems to be aware of this; scrambling to tie up the plot’s loose ends in a final five minutes that feel more rushed than the rest of Extraction’s efficiently conventional structure.  That said, the movie ends on a note so crowd-pleasingly silly that it couldn’t help but leave a good taste in my mouth.  If there is an Extraction 2, I won’t be counting the minutes until its release, but I’m sure it will enjoy a high position in my laundry-folding watchlist.


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