The new Netflix release Extraction has a story that can be distilled into a line: a young boy is kidnapped; a mercenary is sent out to rescue him.
That boy is Ovi Mahajan (Rudhraksh Jaiswal), the son of a jailed Indian drug lord (Pankaj Tripathi). The one-man rescue operation is Tyler Rake (Chris Hemsworth), someone unfazed by bullets and bombs and bazookas. Tyler only gets rattled by his dreams, ones that he sees with eyes open – of his son on a beach. The six-year-old is frozen in his memory because he’s no longer alive.
Ovi, who lives in Mumbai with his father’s underling, Saju (Randeep Hooda), is taken to Dhaka. Saju knows a team that can bring him back. It sends Tyler. In Dhaka, he is up against Amir Asif (Priyanshu Painyuli), Bangladesh’s biggest drug lord, who also controls the country’s police and military.
Like most action dramas committed to the fest of adrenaline rush, Extraction doesn’t care too much for the layers in the plot or depth in characters. You won’t find people here as much as brief character summaries: someone attacks, someone counterattacks, someone monitors and plans. There’s hardly any information about the world either: details about the illicit drug industry, the nexus between the criminals and state, the inner-life of Tyler’s team.
In the absence of people or plot or world, Extraction falls back on the only weapon in its arsenal: action. The entire film is, in fact, written to accommodate as much of it as possible. Tyler reaches the kidnapper’s den: we get a longish violent showdown. Ovi and Tyler manage to escape: we get an even longer action set piece. The climax is expectedly more violent, where all the characters converge with an assortment of weapons. Some films have action sequences in a plot; Extraction has some plot around the action sequences.
Which in itself is not a problem. And some of it is really well done, especially a (seemingly) single-take shot that lasts for 16 breathtaking minutes, starting from Tyler and Ovi evading the cops in a car, then them hiding in a building, where Tyler shoots and stabs more than a dozen cops, then them jumping off a building, after which Tyler and Saju have a fist fight on the road amid the bustling afternoon traffic, followed by Tyler and Ovi escaping in a truck, when seeing a tunnel, both of them jump, leaving the truck to crash and burst in flames.
It’s a riveting set piece (by cinematographer Newton Thomas Sigel), replete with quick, agitated pans, and a nimble camera work, following the characters in different settings — a car, a building, a hallway, a terrace — without losing sight of them or rendering the scene incoherent.
But after a point, the film seems overstuffed with action. It takes an hour, for instance, for the first real interaction in the movie to show up: between Tyler and Ovi, where they’re finally in a quiet room bonding, showing glimpses of their characters. It’s a welcome change, but one that doesn’t last long. Hemsworth turns in a credible performance though, playing a textbook icy killing machine, so does Jaiswal, a boy, full of teenage yearnings, too young to understand that his life has irrevocably changed. But devoid of any understanding about them — or other characters — as people, we can only care for them as much.
Extraction is a buffet of gun-toting automatons — so much so that they strip the film off its intrigue. In fact, it becomes tedious early in the climax where, due to unimaginative and formulaic writing, it’s easy to predict its end. The overlong final stretch then feels pointless as well. A gun eventually runs out of bullets — Extraction is no different.