In a year when Marvel has decided to defer releasing new superhero movies until theaters reopen, this Netflix movie may have benefited by attracting some of the genre’s audience.
“Extraction” was scripted and directed by MCU veterans (Joe Russo and Sam Hargrave, respectively) and stars Chris Hemsworth, who played Thor in three Marvel movies.
Here’s the setup: Tyler Rake (Hemsworth), a grizzled mercenary, has been living in a country shack and doing not much more than drinking when when he gets a call: “We landed the whale.”
His new assignment is to rescue Ovi Mahajan (Rudhraksh Jaiswal), the 15-year-old son of a now-imprisoned Mumbai drug lord. Ovi has been kidnapped by henchmen of another drug lord based in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh.
(An interjection: Why would these drug lords care about each other? Their bases are in different, very populous countries, after all. Why start a war with a gang 1,500 miles away? Even if you really hate the other guy, why kidnap his son? You don’t need ransom money. Why not just kill the child and and leave the body where it lies? I know, I know — action movies generally have plot holes, but geez.)
Tyler arrives in Dhaka where he uses his buff build and combat training, plus guns, to get the boy out on the street, where they are pursued in a long, well-orchestrated sequence of car chases, also with guns blazing.
When it turns out that the mercenary group’s plan to get Ovi out of Dhaka has been foiled, the pair end up hiding in “the worst-smelling sewer in Asia” until they are rescued, surprisingly, and there is an interlude in which the characters reveal their motives.
The final act involves Tyler, Ovi, a new ally, the mercenary team, many police officers, multiple helicopters, much collateral damage and the enemy drug lord watching through binoculars from a Marble porch, rather as if it is a cricket match.
I don’t want to be unkind here. This plot has more in the way of human motivation than most shoot-em-ups. There is a father-son theme that explains Tyler’s empty life and is echoed in other situations. A foggy memory reveals its meaning over time, and there is a recurrent underwater motif. Some scores are settled and, at the very end, there is a suggestion that a prequel or sequel may be in the offing.
Some critics believe the plot reverts lazily to a white-man-rescuer theme, but there may be reasons for that. First, if you have well-established Chris Hemings as your star and a big-budget premise, you’re not aiming for the indie market. (Remember the film’s originators came out of Marvel.) Second, setting this movie anywhere in the U.S. would have been ruinously expensive. The Asian location added interest, reduced cost and provided work for Asian actors and craft talent.
Finally, the funding didn’t come come a major U.S. studio, and there appears to have been some participation by investors from India — not least because the working title was changed from Dhaka to Extraction and because virtually the entire movie was shot in India. The film has attracted much attention in the Indian press and presumably a large audience in that country as well.