Netflix’s original action films have run the gamut from the small and thrilling (Spectral, 2016) to the big and loud (6 Underground, 2019), but regardless of their overall quality few have truly delivered on the action front, and The Night Comes for Us (2018) remains their absolute pinnacle. Their latest can’t touch that Timo Tjahjanto joint, but it succeeds at delivering intense and entertaining action that hits hard and frequently.
A battered and bloodied mercenary (Chris Hemsworth) moves across a bridge crowded with cars and dead bodies. He shoots and stabs various enemies along the way before taking a sniper shot that drops him to the pavement, blood oozing from his mouth, and visions softer memories playing behind his dying eyes. Boom! Two days earlier he’s in a far more peaceful place, back home in Australia, before receiving a job offer in India. A drug lord’s teenage son has been abducted and is in danger of being murdered by a competitor, and Tyler Rake has been hired to rescue and extract the kid.
Extraction is first and foremost a terrifically brutal, action-heavy experience that delivers an incredibly high body count and lots of deaths via gun fights, knife fights, and more. Hemsworth does good work as a sad killing machine propelled forward by his own history of loss, and director Sam Hargrave captures the mayhem and carnage with an eye for the thrills and violence. Joe Russo‘s script doesn’t fare quite as well, but it offers a serviceable frame to hang the good stuff on.
The film shoots itself in the foot right out of the gate, though, with its in medias res opening as viewers are automatically shortchanged when it comes to suspense and expectation. We know that eventually Tyler will reach a bridge, cross it alone, and most likely die. It’s unclear if the idea stems from Russo’s script or if it was a decision made in the editing room, but instead of bolstering the film’s opening it suggests the filmmakers lack faith in the story’s first act. The choice is a misfire as it lessens the impact of much of what follows, and ultimately it’s only the film’s action set-pieces that save it.
The script and story are fairly standard across the board aside from a handful of dialogue highlights — someone tells Tyler he looks more like a Brad, and a sequence where he beats the shit out of a gang of kids leads him to refer to them as “the Goonies from hell” — but the narrative hits numerous familiar beats. Oh no, a double cross! An old mercenary friend (played by David Harbour) appears? We know what’s going to happen there. It’s also not as smart as it should be either as evidenced by one major story point regarding Tyler’s only escape from the city with the kid being one of five bridges — because seriously, get in a fucking boat anywhere along the river encircling the town!
Thankfully, though, Hargrave knows how to deliver on the action front. This is his feature debut after years spent working in stunts and directing second unit on action films like Avengers: Endgame (2019) and Atomic Blonde (2017), and it’s clear he knows how to conceive, capture and frame action sequences. Tyler almost single-handedly wipes out the entirety of Dhaka’s defense force by any means necessary, and the mayhem reaches the screen with real intensity and clarity. Hargrave manages some solid “one take” sequences following Tyler through the action including a seamless enough chase that sees the camera move in and out of cars along the way. Tyler double and triple taps each enemy when he isn’t busy stabbing them, and one cool beat sees him swing a guy through the air so hard that the man’s legs break another guy’s neck. The bad guys are even more vicious to the point that one even throws a small child off a roof just in case their sweaty grimaces didn’t let you know they’re the enemy.
“You drown not by falling into a river,” says someone to a bleakly nihilistic Tyler, “but by staying submerged in it.” The line serves both as a lifeline and a nod to a character trait that comes into play, and it’s a rare non-action beat that rings true and even teases a moment of emotion. Viewers who require more of that kind of thing will find themselves out of luck here, but if you’re main interest is action you’ll be happy to know Extraction lands as one of Netflix’s best originals on that front.