Where would we be without John Wick? If Keanu Reeves hadn’t taken us back to hard-nosed, quick-fire, old-school violence in 2014, the action genre would still be playing catch-up to Marvel. We also wouldn’t have so many stuntmen switching to directing – with former fight choreographers like Chad Stahelski (the John Wick trilogy) and David Leitch (Atomic Blonde, Deadpool 2, Hobbs & Shaw) all helming major blockbusters that look like they could have been made in the ’90s.
Sam Hargrave is the latest stuntman to try his hand behind the camera, convincing the directors of Avengers: Endgame to let him film their graphic novel, and convincing Thor himself to star in it. And so we have Extraction, a film written by Joe Russo, starring Chris Hemsworth and directed by a guy who once doubled for Zach Braff on an episode of Scrubs.
To be fair, it makes a lot of sense to hire a stuntman to direct an action movie. They understand the geography of a set-piece better than most, they know how to make everything look cool and they usually have a strong hatred of CGI that runs to doing as much as possible with real cars, guns and explosions. Sure enough, Extraction has some seriously great fight scenes in it, but it doesn’t have much else.
We meet Hemsworth where we meet all action heroes – washed up in a dirty trailer, drinking to forget his past, taking on “one last job” for the gun-lovin’ hell of it. The son of a drug lord has been taken hostage in Dhaka, Bangladesh, and only one man can get him back before an army of goons kills him. That’s about as much story as you’re going to get, and it’s probably all you need if you just want to watch Hemsworth punch people.
Gratuitously killing everyone in sight with grenades, knives, motorbikes, car doors, coffee pots and anything else to hand, Hemsworth barrels through the movie like an angry Aussie rhino. Just like every other action movie since John Wick, he even does that thing where he grabs someone’s arm, twists it around, and shoots them in the face about five times. A lot.
What he doesn’t do is say very much. We know Hemsworth is great at comedy (see Ghostbusters, Thor: Ragnarok, and Bad Times At The El Royale, for starters), but all we ever get here is grunts. Reader, this protagonist is a stoic lump of meat who doesn’t even wince when he’s patching up his bullet holes with duct tape. At one point he even kills a guy with a rake and doesn’t say a word – despite his character being called “Tyler Rake”…
The upshot is that we don’t really care who he is. Young Rudhraksh Jaiswal fares better as Ovi, the kid caught up in all the madness, Bollywood star Randeep Hooda gets to wring his hands a bit as the baddie, and David Harbour (Stranger Things) earns a slightly pointless cameo as Rake’s fixer friend, but all that really matters is the action.
As you’d expect from the guy who helped to choreograph Hollywood’s most impressive fights for the last 20 years, Hargrave definitely knows how to blow shit up. Shooting straight-up without flashy gimmicks or fast cuts, the former-professional risk-taker makes Extraction look as hard as nails. It might not have John Wick’s cool aesthetic or ironic sense of humour, but it does almost match it in the action stakes – with one awesome second act set-piece (filmed in a single seamless 11-minute shot, through the windows of speeding cars, into buildings, off roofs, back into cars again) easily ranking amongst the best action scenes of the last few years.
It’s dumb, derivative and far too serious for its own good, but Extraction is still a fun ride if you just want a bit of old-fashioned arcade violence on a Friday night. If only they let Hemsworth look like he was enjoying it too…
- Director: Sam Hargrave
- Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Rudhraksh Jaiswal, David Harbour
- Release date: April 24 (Netflix)