Extraction Movie Review: Dazzling action leaves you wanting little else
A relentless, dynamic action film that is almost hypnotic in its creativity
A devil-may-care attitude may or may not be utilitarian, but there’s no denying that a certain recklessness, a flagrant disregard for half-hearted measures, has a charm that’s almost irresistible. Extraction’s thirst for imaginative violence is almost unparalleled in recent times. It’s a film that has almost no time for anything but raw violence. The director is Sam Hargrave, the stunt supervisor of Avengers: Endgame, and his expertise results in some of the most heartstopping action set pieces I have seen in recent memory. This is a film aware of this strength, and barely takes any time before unleashing mayhem in the streets of Dhaka. For all we care, for all the film cares, these set pieces could have been situated in any densely populated city in the world. Before the characters in this film are allowed to engage in war though, a few cursory developments are shown to take place. You are shown that the ‘biggest drug lord’ from Bangladesh has kidnapped the son of ‘the biggest drug lord’ from India. The film thankfully has a sense of humour about how little interest it has in this drug angle. A character upon hearing this information says, “That sounds like some mythic sh**.” It’s hard not to like a film that’s as self-deprecating.
Director: Sam Hargrave
Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Randeep Hooda, Priyanshu Painyulli, Rudraksh Jaiswal
Chris Hemsworth, looking like he’s still angry and depressed over what Thanos has done in Infinity War, plays a mercenary called Tyler Rake. He may have no divine hammer here, but that does not stop him from unleashing violence on a scale that you would think is impossible for an individual. I liked the justification for his thirst for violence. His personal trauma means he really couldn’t care about surviving his fights, and this qualify, ironically, ends up making him more dangerous and harder to kill. Right at the beginning, you see a man point an empty gun at his head, and pull the trigger. Tyler doesn’t even blink. The adversary thinks Tyler is without fear; but the truth is, he is without care. This hardiness lends naturally to the film’s very many brutal action setpieces. Quite a few of them are shot in a way that makes us feel like we are in the midst of all the action. The intimate camerawork means that often, we are allowed to see only as much as Tyler does. If he’s caught by surprise, so are we. A car runs over him from nowhere, and it’s impossible not to jump in shock. The cramped flats, the ceaseless traffic, the congested neighbourhood… all of these participate in the action. One of my favourite moments in this film is when Tyler and Saju (Randeep Hooda, whose bloodied and battered face, is a summary of this film in many ways) are slugging it out on the streets of Dhaka. From out of nowhere, a nonchalant bike of a Dhaka civilian goes in between them. I doubt I have seen a more no-nonsensical depiction of how life in such a city does not have time for two men in a fight.
While it’s a film that does not belabour its themes, it’s hard to miss the running father-son idea. The events are kicked into motion when a druglord’s son, Ovi (Rudraksh Jaiswal), gets kidnapped. A passing moment establishes that Ovi has little affection for his father. Saju, meanwhile, is out there risking his life in order to secure the safety of his family, including his child. Meanwhile, you see that the protagonist, Tyler Rake, is unable to move on from the trauma surrounding his son. Even the villain, Amir (Priyanshu Painyulli), seems to develop a teacher-like fondness for a teenager is eager to impress. While on themes, Extraction operates on the familiar idea of a grieving, disturbed protagonist unleashing violence and potentially finding redemption. As Ovi, mouthing a line that seems unusually deep for his age, says, “You drown not by falling but by staying submerged.” It recalls an early visual of a meditative Tyler underwater, drawing temporary respite from the world outside that won’t stop reminding him of his guilt and grief. While this idea does come full circle at the end of the film, Extraction isn’t the type of film you enjoy for such half-hearted subtext.
You enjoy the film for his breathless action choreography. Everything from a teacup to a table edge, you realise, can be weaponised. The relentless, dynamic action in this film is almost hypnotic in its creativity. Weapons are everywhere; so is death. I also enjoyed that though Tyler and Randeep Hooda’s Saju are tearing each other apart, it’s impossible to take sides between them. These characters are merely prisoners of their circumstances. On the surface—and the film works just fine if thought of as the sum total of all its action—Extraction is about the rescue of a kidnapped boy. However, if you want to dig deeper, you see that it’s Tyler Rake and Saju extracting themselves from the respective horrible hands life has dealt them with. The film doesn’t spend too much time on these angles, and that probably leaves you scrambling for a bit more meaning amid all the chaos. However, that’s no complaint, for this is the closest a film has come in recent weeks to reminding me of what many of us had taken for granted: the theatre experience.