When “Extraction” opens, it seems to prime viewers for an archetypal action movie – shallow characters paired with gratuitous violence.
To be fair, the movie does have its share of the latter, but hidden among the gore and the gunshots are characters with surprising emotional depth and development. “Extraction,” releasing Friday on Netflix, is the premiere directorial effort of “Avengers: Endgame” stunt coordinator Sam Hargrave, whose incredible action sequences demonstrate his mastery of stunt work. The film pairs Chris Hemsworth – in his bread and butter action role as a macho gunman mercenary – with Rudhraksh Jaiswal, who portrays a young and innocent foil to Hemsworth’s hardened character. Thankfully, the stars’ roles make more use of their range of acting than action movies normally do.
The film begins with Ovi Mahajan (Jaiswal), a 14-year-old scion of an Indian drug lord, being kidnapped by the criminal agents of a Bangladeshi crime boss. Hemsworth, portraying Tyler Rake, is hired to rescue and extract him back to India – a mission that imminently goes awry.
Without delay, the action begins, as Tyler goes to work dismantling heavily armed enemies with adrenaline-inducing, mind-numbing combat. Tyler is able to secure Ovi early on in the movie, but the central conflict of the rest of the film is focused on the long journey out of Bangladesh after his extraction plan fails.
The first half of “Extraction” primarily follows Tyler defeating a horde of unnamed enemies as he ferries Ovi through the city of Dhaka toward India. Fight sequences follow the pair as they are chased by cars through the open streets, then relentlessly pursued through cramped apartment rooms and walkways. The action sequences are engaging and grounded, with the impact of every bullet and punch felt through the palpable sound design and Hemsworth’s gritty acting.
Hargrave’s talents as a stunt coordinator are on full display in the intensely thrilling combat, especially as a shaky camera follows Tyler from apartment rooftops to car chases without a single cut. The added dimension of Tyler having to protect the defenseless Ovi from hostiles creates a tension that is otherwise absent in action movies – especially ones where the main character is as skilled and seemingly unbeatable as Tyler is.
Despite the exhilarating combat, however, the initial half of the film does little to challenge the conventional norms of a mindless action movie. Tyler does exhibit kindness under his rough exterior as he starts to genuinely care for Ovi as more than just a mission target. But besides these actions in protecting Ovi from enemies, there is little character development or exploration for a full hour of the film.
Luckily, once the midpoint is reached, “Extraction” shifts emotional gears, providing Ovi and Tyler the space for a heart to heart during a brief respite from their chase.
Ovi’s character is precocious and relatable, demonstrating guilt over his father’s criminal activities and an interest in Tyler as a person. Tyler, in turn, displays an emotional sensitivity stemming from a heartbreaking backstory which he confides to Ovi. Their relationship becomes the crux of the film and makes them more relatable than ordinary action characters – although this is mainly because of Hemsworth and Jaiswal’s poignant acting rather than any unique writing.
The bond between Tyler and Ovi increases the suspense in the latter half of the movie as well. Tyler’s desperation to return Ovi home as he fights through Dhaka becomes more dramatic and sympathetic, making “Extraction’s” second half and ending more moving than a typical action thriller normally is.
However, while the film may be more stirring than its more braindead competitors, it’s still primarily focused on gore and combat. For every minute of sensitivity in character, there are 10 minutes of pure adrenaline. And while this means that the characters cannot be completely fleshed out in the two-hour screen time of “Extraction,” the heartwarming interplay between Jaiswal and Hemsworth prevents the film from being another piece of shallow entertainment.
Between the two co-stars, their rare, quieter scenes provide the emotional foundation that elevates “Extraction” from an ordinary action flick to a legitimately moving film.