If there’s one main takeaway from Extraction, the newest action-thriller offering from Netflix, it’s that more stunt coordinators need to direct action movies. After racking up stunt work credits, David Leitch co-directed John Wick before moving on to solo ventures including Atomic Blonde, Deadpool 2, and Hobbs and Shaw. Leitch’s John Wick partner, Chad Stahelski, has quickly made a name for himself by following up the first in that trilogy by helming it’s two sequels, John Wick 2 and John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum.
Regardless of your overall opinion of those movies, they all share one important trait: fantastic action, stunt work, and fight sequences. Some are highlighted by one scene (Atomic Blonde’s stairwell fight), while others, think Parabellum, showcase brilliant fight scene after brilliant fight scene.
And now, with Extraction, we may need to add Sam Hargrave to the list of coveted action directors. Some of his work includes stunt coordinator for several Marvel films, including Infinity War and Endgame, along with performing as Chris Evans’ stunt double in The Avengers and Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Simply put, the man knows his way around a fight. And that intimate knowledge is on full display throughout Extraction.
The story follows mercenary Tyler Rake (Chris Hemsworth) as he undertakes a mission to rescue the son of an Indian drug lord, who has been kidnapped by a rival drug lord. And…that’s about it, as far as story is concerned. If you’re settling in for Extraction expecting an intricate, twisting, in-depth tale, you’re in for a rude awakening. There is nothing special here plot-wise. Or character-wise.
The characters are all surface level, though some attempts are made at humanizing Hemsworth’s brutalizing Rake. But those don’t go anywhere. The same applies to every other character. Nobody even really needs a name; a generic description would do just fine. Drug Lord. Other Drug Lord. Kidnap Victim. Mercenary 1. Mercenary 2. You get the idea. The actors are perfectly fine, though. There are no complaints with regards to the performance quality. David Harbour of Stranger Things fame even shows up to chew the scenery for a little bit. It’s just that none of the actual acting required much of anything from anyone. Any time the action stops, you find yourself twiddling your thumbs waiting for the next fight to grab your attention again.
And thankfully Extraction shines in that department. There’s not a dull moment to be had once Hargrave yells “Action!” on the fight and action scenes. It’s brutal, violent (maybe even a little too violent), tightly choreographed, and expertly filmed. This is what you come for in a movie like Extraction. You hope they nail the fights, and anything else is just gravy.
The highlight is an extended one-take sequence. It follows multiple characters, shifting locations, and hits on sequences of a car chase, gun fight, and fist fight. While not a completely seamless sequence, it’s still quite the impressive feat, especially for a first time director. Hargrave’s interview with Coming Soon, provides some great insight into that scene, as well as the rest of the film.
Ultimately, the great action makes up for any of Extraction’s shortcomings. If you’re hoping to find a deep character study to go along with dynamite action, you’re best advised to look elsewhere. But if all you need is high-grade stunts and actions, then Extraction should be just the ticket.
You won’t find great characters or story work, but the action, though ultra-violent at times, is top-notch and makes up for other shortcomings.