Extraction, Sam Hargrave’s Netflix action thriller, wastes no time in letting you know that you need not take this film seriously. As Tyler Rake, a mercenary for hire played by Chris Hemsworth, announces himself by meditating at the bottom of a remote Australian lake, you know you’re being set up for a fun ride. And you’ll have fun, but in a more “laugh at” kinda way. So, if you’re looking for dramatic richness, I implore you to look elsewhere.
Tyler Rake has to extract the 14-year-old son of an imprisoned Indian drug lord, held captive somewhere in Dhaka by Amir Asif, notoriously known as the Bangladeshi Pablo Escobar among his peers as well as his enemies. Asif is a strange character, he appears to have the entire armed forces in his pocket. He throws children off rooftops, and actually manages to put the city under lockdown without breaking a sweat — all while talking as if he’s under the influence of the very drug he sells.
Our hero, Tyler Rake, seems like he’s in the wrong movie for the entire runtime. He doesn’t talk much, and doesn’t seem affected by the physics-defying stunts going on around him. He has a tragic history that’s supposed to give him a dog in the fight. But Rake is not a convincing hero under the circumstances; his motivations are banal, and his grim mood is at odds with the film’s tone. It’s very clear that this is what Chris Hemsworth wants to do when he’s not playing Thor, a serious action hero. But this is just not the right movie for that.
Joe Russo, one of the directors of Avengers: Endgame, pens a mostly laconic script that unfortunately, has sudden bursts of dull and talkative moments. You know you are in bad company when an action film stops in the middle of car chases, seats its heroes in armchairs, and throws a bunch of exposition at you. There’s even a scene where Rake delineates the extracted kid, Ovi, why he’s sad, which is the last bit of information we need to know. The film also doesn’t establish a direct conflict between the hero and the villain. They neither have personal stakes, nor do they get personal in the course of the movie. It’s also not clear why Asif wants what he wants, and why we the audience should care. And what’s up with his obsession with teenage boys?
Hargrave’s Dhaka feels strangely alien — the saturated yellow colour-grading in an attempt to give the city some narco feel is a stark contrast to the relatively greyer Dhaka. There’s also no real sense of space either, as Hargrave mostly uses establishing shots of Dhaka city, and then cuts back to close-ups and medium shots of Chris Hemsworth somewhere in India — the city this film ends up presenting barely gets a chance to breathe, let alone feel like a real place. The production and set design are mostly okay, although there is a good number of laughable mistakes if you look closely. The fact that several CNGs have “আল্লাহ সার্ভশক্তিমান” written on their backs tells you all about the research that went into creating this particular Dhaka city. Also, it’s hard to believe that Chris Hemsworth is fighting in the streets of Dhaka, and no “chacha” is interested in forming a gallery of spectators around him. That is just downright offensive.
But by far the biggest let down was the action. The director is a stuntman himself — he was the stunt double of Chris Evans Captain America — and a friend of the Russo brothers. There are some great stunt works on display in this movie — people put their bodies on the line, and Chris Hemsworth is committed to his action scenes. But Hargrave decides to shoot them in tight angles, and the camera moves too much and too quickly, playing out like a video game. We end up watching the actors’ faces when they are using their legs, and their legs when they are using their fists. Jackie Chan would have said, “Stop moving, go wider, show us the fight.”
The Bangla-speaking actors are outsourced from Kolkata, so hearing them butcher Dhaka’s language may feel strange. And the film doesn’t do much to convince us to overlook these minor foibles either. Chris Hemsworth did a better job with his one Bangla line “প্রমাণ দাও” than the entire Bangla-speaking cast.
Is it worth your time? Of course, it is. You may not get the chance to see desi CNGs getting knocked over in a Hollywood car chase, or Chris Hemsworth driving a desi truck and fighting desi police again for a long time. And also, the Buriganga has never been cleaner. So, yes, you can watch it.
Nayeem Ehtesham loves to read and believes his degree in computer science has helped him write funny stories using his computer.