Mladen and Del review ‘Extraction’
“Extraction” Starring Chris Hemsworth, Bryon Lerum, Ryder Lerum, Rudhraksh Jaiswal, Shivam Vichare, Randeep Hooda, David Harbour, and others. Directed by Sam Hargrave. 116 minutes. Rated R. Netflix.
Think of “Extraction” as a John Wick movie with two John Wicks. The film is as good as “John Wick Chapter 3,” which was less good than “John Wick Chapter 2,” which was less good than “John Wick Chapter 1,” a delightful action blockbuster and the Gold Standard for depicting personal violence on the big screen. “Extraction” is worth seeing. It’s closer to a B+ than an A-. And, don’t confuse this “Extraction” with the “Extraction” starring Bruce Willis. Apparently, the Willis film is the opposite of good.
Hemsworth’s character Tyler is a PMC with a guilty conscience. It’s the guilt that yields some banal chatter between him and his teenaged ward and even, get this, tears. The emotional putridness is what pushes this hostage rescue movie into the upper B range. Hell, I expect touchy feely Del to condemn me for my dislike of the effort to introduce warmth to the movie. So, Del, let me be clear. I find it more endearing that Wick whacked a bunch of people for killing his dog and stealing his classic Ford Mustang than Tyler’s decision to save a privileged youth who lives in a society built on unimaginable inequities. The income gap, houselessness, and medical insurancelessness in America ain’t nothing juxtaposed to what upper caste Indians do to lower caste Indians.
The action, violence, and tension in “Extraction” are a whole ’nother story. Give that subset of the film a sparkling A.
On this side, we have Tyler and his Australian army commando good looks and pumped body and, on the other, Saju, portrayed wonderfully by Randeep Hooda. Tyler and Saju, a former Indian army commando with flowing long, dark hair and chiseled jaw, are initially foes and ally later in the movie to execute the good deed. They are the muscular playthings of a feud between an Indian drug boss and a Bangladeshi drug boss. Much of the action takes place in Dhakka.
The fight sequences of the two Wick mimickers against each other and corrupt Bangladeshi army troops are top-notch choreography. There’s hand-to-hand. There are close-in pistol shots to heads and thoraxes. Thoraxi? Thoraxae? There are assault rifle gun-downs at medium range. And, there are exploding heads via snipers at long distances. Damn fine Wick-y-ness. But, though I hate to admit this, there is one prolonged gun battle toward the middle of the movie that ran too long. It was reminiscent of a battle sequence in “Battle LA” that also held children in peril for an interminable period.
Tyler and Saju absorb wicked abuse. It’s the sort of abuse that none of the other shooters in the movie could take. The PMCs recover faster from lacerations, contusions, and blood loss than Donald Moron Trump and William Stay Puft Barr violate the U.S. Constitution. The good part? There’s no effort to explain Tyler’s and Saju’s resilience by pointing out that they are forces of pure will. The two are well-conditioned dudes with a single goal driven, ultimately, by self‑interest. Plausible.
It would be a mistake to ignore the potent character played by David Harbour, as brief as his appearance in “Extraction” is. Harbour portrays another PMC and is Tyler’s long-time buddy. Slimmed down from his days as the sheriff in “Stranger Things” and imposing, Harbour is terrific as the merciless, though he argued otherwise, mercenary. He almost persuaded me to back doing what he wanted to do. Remarkable. Ten million dollars is a lot of money, after all.
“Extraction” also benefits from a very good original score by Henry Jackman. Its tone fits the film. The score’s moodiness, modernity, despair, and a touch of “everything-will-be-all-right” move the movie by helping pace it and adding atmosphere. Maybe this also means that streaming services are now starting to attract capable composers. What would “Jaws” or “Star Wars” be without John Williams? “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly” or “The Thing” without Ennio Morricone? Almost nothing, I argue. To me, the sound in a movie, including its score, is more important than the visuals. That means what? Yep, to enjoy “Extraction” correctly you need an AVR pushing as many speakers as possible at decibels that will annoy your neighbors up and down the block.
Finally, yes, the ending of “Extraction” set up a sequel. Who was that stranger standing poolside?
I expect to visit Mladen one day and find him sunning on a rock with the lizards that make up his band of cold-blooded brothers. He might flick his tongue to catch a fly, then bask in exothermic bliss as he digests his snack, untroubled by emotion or feelings, a Mr. Spock among iguanas.
But enough hissing.
I thought “Extraction” was a much better movie than Mladen’s fussy take and I’m surprised he went in that direction. The movie is a bloodbath that by comparison reduces John Wick to a milquetoast Mr. Rogers guest starring on a Richard Simmons workout video. I was black and blue from just watching it. Sure, Hemsworth gets choked up when remembering the death of his little boy. Who wouldn’t? It was 30 seconds of characterization that lifted Hemsworth from the realm of Van Dammit and Rambot into the arms of relatable human beings. I don’t mind seeing my heroes bleed.
The story is simple: The 14-year-old son of a jailed drug lord is kidnapped by a rival cartel chieftain. The boy’s father is understandably pissed and tells the boy’s chagrined guardian to get him back, or else. You’ve probably watched enough episodes of “Narcos” to know what “or else” means in drug lord-speak. Problem is, the government has frozen the drug lord’s assets, so there’s no money to hire the army necessary to free the boy.
The solution? Hire Thor.
And that’s it. Get the kid back. A hammerless Chris Hemsworth swings into bloody action, laying waste to corrupt Bangladeshi soldiers, hired triggermen, a band of rotten brats sprung from the imagination of a methed-out Charles Dickens, and even a former pal who wants to retire but lacks the necessary funds … until now.
The mayhem is fast and very, very furious with lots of shooting, beatings, car chases, stabbings, and even one scene where Hemsworth pummels a guy into a senseless stupor with a stove pot. It makes a delightful clonky sound and I couldn’t tell if it was coming from the pot or the guy’s head.
Hemsworth’s character, Tyler, is motivated to go above and beyond by the memory of his child. When the boy was diagnosed with a terminal illness, Tyler chose another tour of duty in Afghanistan over remaining stateside to preside over the boy’s decline and eventual death. His wife left him over that – deservedly so. And now he must atone for that sin of abandonment by not abandoning another child in need. Yes, his teenaged ward is the son of a drug lord, as Mladen pointed out. But he’s 14, for Christ’s sake. He hasn’t made any of his life’s choices, except which PornHub channel to bookmark. You can’t blame him for his father’s poor choices.
The movie was well-done in many ways, from the setting to the script and even Hemsworth’s performance, which was not overbaked and in some ways contained surprising and, dare I say it, heartwarming subtleties.
So the movie worked for me and I’m rating it a solid A. The only thing that could top it would be a movie that paired Hemsworth with immortal Charlize Theron to kick Godzilla’s ass. Take THAT, Mladen!
You want action without caricature? You want “Extraction.”
Mladen Rudman is a former journalist and technical writer. Del Stone Jr. is a former journalist and writer.
Image courtesy of Marvel Studios.
“Thor” Starring Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Anthony Hopkins. Directed by Kenneth Branagh. 114 minutes. Rated PG-13.
(Note: Mladen Rudman could not make the screening of “Thor.”)
“Thor” puts the hammer down on Marvel Entertainment’s canon of superhero tentpoles with a heaping helping of sound and fury that will take your breath away, if not your eardrums.
When my friend Dusty finally wheedled me into committing to “Thor” by dangling the carrot of IMAX and 3-D, I expected to hate the movie but love the look. With the possible exceptions of the original “Jason and the Argonauts” with Ray Harryhausen’s magnificent claymation effects, and Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, movies based on mythologies are annoying and distracting. They’re hard to follow, character names are impossible to figure out and the story is one big cliche.
In “Thor” the cliché is rendered moot by terrific action sequences, spectacular special effects and really top-notch acting by its A-list cast.
Thor (Chris Hemsworth), the god of thunder and heir to the throne of Asgard, mounts a raid on the ancient enemy the Frost Giants without his father Odin’s (Anthony Hopkins) permission. For his indiscretion Thor is banished to Earth where he meets Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), a scientist investigating atmospheric disturbances created by the comings and goings of the gods. Meanwhile Thor’s brother, Loki (Tom Hiddleston) plots to hold the crown for himself as Odin lapses into dream sleep. Part of that plan involves dispatching The Destroyer, an unkillable machine that shoots energy blasts from his eyes (reminiscent of Cyclops in The X-Men) to forever rid the universe of Thor.
The movie oscillates between absolute seriousness and absolute hilarity as the pieces fall into place. In one scene Thor wolfs down a meal at a dinner and hoists a coffee cup, draining it. He finds the drink to his liking and demands another, smashing the mug to the floor in true Viking style. In another Foster’s assistant, Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings), admires the ripped abs of an unconscious Thor and observes, “Does he need CPR? Because I totally know CPR.”
It’s all great fun but the universe hangs in the balance as Thor must somehow get back to Asgard and foil the evil Loki’s plans to enable the Frost Giants to murder Odin. At the same time he must learn humility and wisdom if he is to become heir to Asgard’s throne. A budding romance between Thor and Foster assures that of happening.
Yet that romance seems unconvincing. While it is clear Foster is smitten by the hunky Norseman from the outset, Thor’s interest strikes the viewer as remote and indifferent until the third act. And Loki’s evil intent waxes and wanes throughout, again until the third act.
Still, the virtues of “Thor” vastly outweigh its liabilities. Hemsworth turns in a breakout performance as the arrogant god who discovers his kindler, gentler facet, while Portman radiates humor and vulnerability in a way I have never seen in her career. Hopkins is his usual, larger-than-life self and Hiddleston effectively manages the vulnerabilities and ambitions of second-fiddle Loki. Special effects are top notch and the sound will rattle your ribcage, depending on how high the theater has the volume turned up.
On a scale of A to F “Thor” rates an A minus. It’s great escapist fun and more than adequately supports the upcoming “Captain America” and “Avengers.”
Del Stone Jr. is a former journalist and author.