Extraction is a forgettable action movie starring Chris Hemsworth as a cranky alpha male

Chris Hemsworth sprints down streets and falls off balconies in Netflix’s macho new action movie. It’s highly forgettable and metaphorically heavy-handed, says critic Luke Buckmaster.

“Extraction” is one of those boring boilerplate titles that sounds like a thousand other long-forgotten action movies. Director Sam Hargrave’s biff-n-blam macho fest follows a black market mercenary—the improbably named Tyler Rake (Chris Hemsworth)—who rescues or “extracts” the kidnapped son of a crime lord then races around, running down streets and falling off balconies. The script (from Avengers: Endgame co-director Joe Russo) is for the most part happily unambitious, then all of a sudden whacks you with a too-neat-by-half line the writer obviously spent a lot of time labouring over.

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The first of such lines is delivered by Nik (Golshifteh Farahani) during a scene in which she explains to Rake the basic details of a Very Dangerous mission, involving rescuing 14-year-old Ovi (Rudhraksh Jaiswal) from a dingy hideout in Bangladesh. Noticing that Rake is wolfing down pills and booze for breakfast, and feeling compelled to summarise his character using a few carefully chosen words, the mercenary recruiter and aspiring poet intones: “You’re hoping if you spin the chamber enough times you’re gonna catch a bullet.”

Oh look, poignant!

In addition to being ooo, poignant!, Nik’s sudden eloquence reiterates a point made visually and narratively since the beginning of Extraction: that the protagonist is a Broken Man who longs for a cause, for meaning, purpose, a raison d’être. This naturally arrives via said extraction. And said extraction naturally entails many scenes involving Rake whisking his young companion from one location to another, on foot or by car through streets teeming with Central Casting baddies, who he eliminates in between growling directives such as “move fast, stay low”.

Hargrave approaches the task of creating pace as if it were something that occurs within a scene rather than around it, embracing a stop-start rhythm that oscillates between bloodied bedlam and moments of deliberate reprieve—all configuration, no feeling. During these slower moments key players open up about their past, ticking a box marked “character development”. The most onerous of them has Hemsworth slumped in a funereal pose, getting teary-eyed as he reflects on the death of his young son: “I wasn’t even there when he died,” he says, melancholic music swelling on the soundtrack.

Way too many water metaphors

If this calculated grab for empathy wasn’t bad enough, Ovi looks tenderly at his pea-brained saviour, and, brow pursed and voice wistful, says: “You drown not by falling into the river, but by staying submerged in it”. Yes, he read that in a book. The line plays even worse on screen than it reads in print, connecting to an early sequence in which Rake, apropos of nothing, jumps off a cliff and into a body of water, then sits on the streambed with his legs crossed and his eyes closed. This submergence symbolizes the suffocating elements of Rake’s conscience—geddit?

And if that wasn’t bad enough, Extraction‘s last act involves an actual river, and then a swimming pool, and then…well, let’s just say those water-clogged metaphors continue to the film’s very last breath.

Cinematographer Newton Thomas Sigel colour grades using a thick sunset orange, apparently believing that evoking the qualities of dusk and creating moody atmosphere are the same thing. Extraction takes an autopilot approach to visual action, establishing geographical context via cookie cutter drone images and using bland mid-shots to capture characters barrelling between obstacles. Rarely of course with a sense that anybody is in danger—other than swarms of nondescript villains.

Chris Hemsworth is a blank canvas

Hemsworth trades in a retro form of alpha masculinity, kitted up with huge phallic weapons—assault rifles in this film, a hammer in Thor—reasserting a dominance that was never in question. The Melbourne-born star prefers posing over acting; flexing muscles over flexing emotions. He has no apparent interest in the kind of meatier work that might evolve his artistic capabilities, bound to one day be useful when that soft drink commercial body gets crumpled by the ravages of time. He’s a bathtub hero; a blank canvas.

A much better film than Extraction about a hardened, trigger-happy hero protecting a youngster from kidnappers in a foreign land is Tony Scott’s 2004 pulse-pounder Man on Fire, with Denzel Washington whizzing around Mexico City in the role of the boozer whose ultimate thirst is for spiritual rebirth. Washington has pathos and Scott’s jumpy execution builds a nervy, wigged-out freneticism that matches the narrative.

A decade and a half later this movie is still bobbing around in the recesses of my movie-watching mind, with its kaleidoscope of over-baked aesthetic and a furiously purpose-driven Washington. There is not a snowflake’s chance in Hades that Extraction will also stick around in my memory; in fact I have already started to forget about it.