Netflix Now: Extraction (2020)-Reviewed

Fresh off of delivering the biggest film of all time (Avengers: Endgame), Joe and Anthony Russo have jumped full on into developing films for up-and-coming directors through their production house AGBO. Aside from being co-distributors for 2018's Assassination Nation, their first foray into this was last year's police thriller 21 Bridges. Continuing the trend of taking a script straight out of the 90s, casting an Avenger as the lead (Bridges had Chadwick Boseman, this one has Chris Hemsworth) and throwing it in a blender, we have Extraction.

Set in the dangerous world of black-ops mercenaries, we follow Tyler Rake (Hemsworth). Rake, a too-cool merc without much of a backstory, spends his time killing a frightening amount of people and jumping off of impossibly tall cliffs to meditate underwater. The mission he's assigned when we meet him is to rescue a drug lord's son from another drug lord in Dhaka, Bangledash. All of this should make for a violent, fun and breezy action flick because again, we're following a guy named Tyler Rake who meditates underwater. But, against all odds, the film manages to take itself way too seriously and ends up being a miserable slog.

Sam Hargrave, a stuntman and frequent Russo collaborator on their Marvel work, makes his directorial debut with Extraction to mixed results. He absolutely has an eye for action and uses his history as a stuntman and coordinator well enough. There's a one-take chase scene towards the middle of the film that's as exhilarating as anything you'll see all year. Unfortunately he has almost no discernible vision. The set pieces begin to pile up on one another like an endless car crash, culminating in confusion and exhaustion. The fights are brutal but without any sense of direction: you can tell he's worked in the MCU because he brings that bland, weightless choreography here. 

American audiences have gotten used to fights being lazy and uninspiring, thanks in large part to the MCU. The Russos and Hargrave continue this unfortunate trend here. As stunt coordinator for Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Endgame, Hargrave gave us two of the ugliest, most disjointed fights in recent memory with the Airport Battle in the former and the Final Battle in the latter. With an R rating and a more grounded setting, the fights are a little cleaner and you feel more of their impact but everything is so chaotic, you eventually just lose track of who's hitting who. There's no real sense of space or movement. 

Speaking of ugly, this film is one of the least interesting looking action films I've seen in a while. Hargrave follows the age-old trope of "If your film has a white man in a faraway land slaughtering people of color, slap a yellow filter over it" and it just compounds the miserable time you have watching this thing. It's a film stuck between two modes. It wants to be this serious, post-Bourne action flick with some prestigious weight around it but it has the insane body count of an 80s Schwarzeneggar vehicle. There's no charm, no real fun to be had and it gives you nothing of substance for you to take it as seriously as you want. Hargrave and Co. are pulling from everything from Traffic-era Soderbergh to Commando and it comes out a mess on the other side. Tone is the most important thing a film has to establish for the audience to buy in. If the film is unsure of what it's supposed to be, how are we supposed to lock in? Being a Netflix film, it's hard to not label this with yet another product its mythic algorithm created based on its subscribers watch-habits. 

Hemsworth does his best to sell the two tones the film struggles with. He's an innately watchable presence and it's such a shame that he didn't exist before the Movie Star went extinct because he's generally terrific. When the film wants to have fun, he's more than capable spitting out one-liners. When the film gives Rake a tragic backstory spit out from another algorithm, he sells it better than it deserves. He brings a level of chemistry to the relationship with the child he's protecting that the film itself does very little work to achieve. Hemsworth has the size, charisma and ability to be our next great action star and he's why this film doesn't fall completely flat on its face. He deserves better.

Perhaps the most exciting choice was to set the film in Bangladesh and populate it with Hindi film stars. The best among them is Randeep Hooda, making his Hollywood debut here. However, as good as Hemsworth is, the film's focus on him takes away from the world its inhabiting. We learn very little about the country and its people and despite a strong performance from Hooda, we don't get much insight into his character either. It's evidently a film written and directed by white men who have little grasp on the world they're dealing with. The people of Dhaka exist to kill and be killed in this movie with almost no in-between. On top of being ugly and lifeless, it's a remarkably regressive film.

Too dull to excite, too violent to take seriously, Extraction is a film with an identity crisis and at almost two hours, it's a slog. A strong performance from Hemsworth and some exciting set pieces can't save this from being a forgettable action romp. It's hard to see what the Russo's production house is really offering so far outside of unremarkable throwbacks to a movie you'd watch on TNT while you fell asleep on the couch. It's a shame too because with their clout and money, they're potentially a massive resource for filmmakers who need it. Hopefully upcoming Australian horror film Relic provides a bit of a reprieve. The Avengers are absent from that one so fingers crossed. 

-Brandon Streussnig