This edition of Movies to Watch After… recognizes the direct and indirect cinematic roots of Extraction as we recommend fans go back and learn some film history, become more well-rounded viewers, and enjoy likeminded works of the past, even if it’s the fairly recent past. As always, we try to point you in the easiest direction of where to find each of these highlighted titles.
Many of the responses to Extraction say that it wears its influences on its sleeve. Critics, as well as members of the general audience streaming the action movie on Netflix, mention The Raid, John Wick, and Atomic Blonde as recent precursors. If those movies are such obvious comparisons, then I don’t need to include them in my recommendations for what to watch after the new Chris Hemsworth vehicle. Unless you haven’t seen them already…
Rather than the usual suspects of modern action influencers, I’m out to highlight some favorites of mine that I thought about while watching Sam Hargraves‘ feature directorial debut. Of course, I’ve also included some significant predecessors and lessons in film history plus a few past works from the filmmaker and his cast. And I’m starting off with the earliest pick this week.
Straight Shooting (1917)
People make a big deal about the current renaissance of stuntmen turning filmmakers. Hargraves was a stunt coordinator on Marvel movies, including the Russo brothers’ Avengers: Endgame and the second two Captain America films, in which he doubles for Chris Evans in the title role. Now he’s helmed his first feature, produced by the Russos and written by one of them. Does that make him the next David Leitch or Chad Stahelski?
Before those two John Wick co-directors made the transition from stunts to directing, there were plenty of others to do it, most famously Hal Needham. The promotion goes back to the early days of cinema, in fact. John Ford got his start as a stunt performer on his brother’s movies before directing his own starting in 1917. Most of his first films are lost, but Straight Shooting, his first feature at the helm, has survived more than a century.
The Western stars Harry Carey, who was Ford’s original regular leading man way before John Wayne had that honor. It’s your typical farmers vs. ranchers story with Carey as the gunman hired to help one side of the range war but then changes sides. The action on display was certainly spectacular for its day, though fans of the brutal and non-stop fighting in Extraction may be underwhelmed. Hopefully, it serves at least as a historical curiosity.
Big Jake (1971)
Speaking of John Wayne, one of his final Westerns involves a kidnapping plot that’s relevant enough to the story in Extraction. Sure, it’s not exactly the same, and there are earlier movies dealing with abducted gangsters’ sons (see The Miami Story) and better films involving kidnapped kids (Kurosawa’s High and Low is the best), but Big Jake is an underrated film about an aging tough-guy loner tasked with safely retrieving a boy from his bad guy captors.
Similar to the more famous earlier movie The Searchers, directed by Ford and starring Wayne, here the main character has a familial connection to the kidnapped child (he’s the boy’s grandfather), which doesn’t correlate to Hemsworth’s nothing-to-lose hero in Extraction whose motivation is solely money. One connection of note, though: the kid in Big Jake is played by Wayne’s own son, and Hemsworth’s son in Extraction is played by his own son.
Compared to most of his Westerns, Big Jake is relatively violent for a John Wayne picture, though still nowhere near the extent of Extraction. Much of the violence, including a kid stabbing a guy in the face with a pitchfork and later a guy being impaled by the same tool, is not that graphic by today’s standards. Still, it’s at least as thematically brutal, with the bad guys even killing some children off-screen before kidnapping the one.
As a stunt performer, Hargrave has stood in for guys like Chris Evans and Justin Timberlake, but as a fight choreographer, his best work is with women heroes such as Charlize Theron in Atomic Blonde. His early shorts showcase women in physical combat, as well (see one of them below). He should have cast a woman in the lead in Extraction, too, and then this recommendation would have been even more appropriate.
Gloria‘s leading lady, Gena Rowlands, has big blonde hair reminiscent of Hemsworth’s Thor, at least. The film, which comes, firstly, as a recommendation by our own Rob Hunter, is written and directed by Rowland’s husband, John Cassavetes. It follows a woman who takes a young boy under her wing and on the run when the mob goes after the kid. Gloria protects and bonds with the boy not unlike Hemsworth and his assignment in Extraction.
While already directly remade by Sidney Lumet in the late 1990s with Sharon Stone in the lead, I expect we’ll one day get another redo that’s more of an action movie than either of the two existing versions. Apparently, Kurt Wimmer’s sci-fi actioner Ultraviolet is heavily inspired by Gloria, though, as is Luc Besson’s Leon: The Professional, which is a movie I almost included on this list (it’ll be mentioned again a couple of times at least) and Erick Zonca’s Julia.
Supposedly, Arnold Schwarzenegger was considered for the lead role in Extraction, which doesn’t seem as fitting since Hemsworth had worked with the filmmakers previously and Arnie had not. Bruce Willis was also allegedly in mind for the movie. Maybe they were suggestions but this isn’t their kind of movie today. It was at least Schwarzenegger’s kind of movie 35 years ago, however. A time when Hemsworth was still just a baby.
Commando is the example I think of most when one-man-army Schwarzenegger movies are on my mind. It was definitely my favorite of the action hero’s vehicles when I was a kid. It’s funny to recall that it spawned a 16-inch “super” action figure that came with an assortment of weapons. He deserved a larger toy than most because he’s larger than life in Commando. He hardly seems human as he mows down hundreds of bad guys in his way.
The difference in action heroes of today is that they’re allowed to be more vulnerable. Schwarzenegger’s John Matrix, who is in pursuit of his kidnapped daughter, never suffers a scratch. Even the Porsche he drives comes out of a crash unscathed after seemingly getting smashed (sure it’s a famous mistake, but maybe it’s also just appropriate). Schwarzenegger’s highest kill count, 81, is in Commando. Extraction‘s body count is close to 100.
Man on Fire (1987)
Plenty of reviews of Extraction have mentioned Man on Fire as having a similar premise — that of a mercenary rescuing a kidnapped child — but most of the time when Man on Fire is brought up, it’s the 2004 version that first comes to mind. Tony Scott’s adaptation of the A.J. Quinnell novel of the same name stars Denzel Washington as the former CIA agent turned bodyguard and Dakota Fanning as the assignment he lets slip through his fingers.
Scott wanted to make the movie 20 years earlier but was considered too inexperienced. So the first adaptation went to French director Élie Chouraqui for a mostly European production set in Italy and starring American actor Scott Glenn in the lead opposite non-professional kid Jade Malle as the kidnapped girl. The cast includes Brooke Adams and Jonathan Pryce as her parents, Joe Pesci as Glenn’s partner, and Danny Aiello as the mafia don kidnapper.
One reason that the remake aligns so well with Extraction is because of the ending. Spoiler alert: the hero dies. That’s not the same ending as the book, and the 1987 movie has an even different ending. Another difference between the two adaptations is this version is the greater bond the hero and his ward have in the earlier take. This version of Man on Fire also reminds me of Leon: The Professional, partly because Jade Malle kind of resembles a young Natalie Portman and her role in Man on Fire is similar. Also, Aiello is in that and this.
The Man from Nowhere (2010)
This recommendation comes from our own Kieran Fisher. Lee Jeong-beom’s The Man from Nowhere stars Won Bin (whom you should know from Bong Joon-ho’s Mother) in his last film appearance as a quiet pawnshop owner who goes after a drug lord and his minions when they kidnap his best friend — a little girl. As it turns out, the guy is a former soldier with South Korean Army Intelligence. Another movie in which the bad guys have messed with the wrong guy.
The hero’s relationship with the young girl is also reminiscent of the characters in Leon: The Professional, enough for many to call this almost a Korean remake. Her mother is killed by the crime boss, who is also involved in organ harvesting, but she wasn’t a great parent anyway, which is why she bonded with the nice guy in the neighborhood with the tragic past. Kieran also suggests another Korean film from the same year: Na Hong-jin’s The Yellow Sea.
The Patience Stone (2012)
As I’ve already mentioned, I’d have loved to have seen a woman in the lead role in Extraction. Or, maybe I’d just have liked to have seen more action scenes showcasing Golshifteh Farahani. Perhaps with Hemsworth’s character dead at the end and Farahani’s character finishing off the big bad herself, the Iranian actress can star in a sequel or spinoff. Maybe for that to happen, though, Extraction fans need to get to know her work a little better.
Farahani prominently appears in a number of American productions over the years, including Ridley Scott’s Body of Lies, Jim Jarmusch’s Paterson, Neil Burger’s The Upside, Jon Stewart’s Rosewater, and, unfortunately, Exodus: Gods and Kings and the fifth Pirates of the Caribbean movie. She’s also worth seeing in Iranian films, most notably Asghar Farhadi’s About Elly. But The Patience Stone, by Afghan filmmaker Atiq Rahimi, is all about her.
Farahani plays a woman whose husband is in a vegetative state. She begins to confess everything she’s ever wanted to say to him, all of her feelings about their relationship and more. It’s an incredibly feminist film for where it’s from, but not controversially so. The Patience Stone, which was co-written by longtime Bunuel collaborator Jean-Claude Carriere, was Afghanistan’s submission to the Oscars in 2013, though it wasn’t nominated.
Game Changer (2013)
Hargrave seems to show a natural knack for directing with his feature debut, but he has had some practice. Not only did he lead second-unit filming on Avengers: Endgame and Atomic Blonde and other action movies, but he also helmed a number of action shorts, beginning in 2007 with a six-minute action movie called Reign. I can’t find that one online, and his next, Seven Layer Dip, is a bit too goofy for this list, so I’m going with his fourth short, Game Changer.
The five-minute film stars Eugenia Kuzmina (The Gentlemen) as a woman attempting to get out of “the game” by taking on her former boss (Mark Pellegrino) and his minions. It plays as a kind of proof of concept for a feature-length continuation of the story, but while that’s never happened, in retrospect it proves his ability to move up into feature directing. Or at least his ability to choreograph the fight sequences for Charlize Theron in Atomic Blonde.
One of the highlights of Extraction is Randeep Hooda, the Indian actor who plays Saju, the henchman who also served as guardian or bodyguard for the boy and then attempts to retrieve him from Hemsworth and the rest of the rescue team. Not only is he great in the fight scenes but his character’s story is one of the more interesting in the movie. If retold with him as the hero, Extraction would play even more like Man on Fire.
Hooda is not exactly known as an action star, but he has appeared in a number of Indian action movies as well as other crime films that should be of interest to fans of his work in Extraction. He broke out with the gangster film Once Upon a Time in Mumbaai, co-stars in the first installment of the popular Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster franchise, and appears in supporting roles in the action blockbusters Kick and Baaghi 2.
Highway is not an action movie, but it’s probably Hooda’s best starring vehicle (I’m not counting his film debut, Monsoon Wedding, in which he plays a minor role), and yes, it does involve a kidnapping plot. Hooda plays one of the kidnappers who abduct the daughter (Alia Bhatt) of a very wealthy man. She actually enjoys being part of the abduction, though, and eventually, she and Hooda’s character fall in love.
Chris Hemsworth doesn’t have a significant career when you take away all of his movies as Thor, and what’s left often showcases the actor’s comedic talents, even in something action-oriented such as Snow White and the Huntsman and its sequel. For Extraction, he’s a more serious character in an action-driven capacity, and that’s reminding a lot of fans of Blackhat to give it another push as they defend the box office flop as an underrated masterpiece.
Directed by Michael Mann, Blackhat stars Hemsworth as a genius computer hacker who also — fortunately, given what he’ll have to go through in this movie — appears to work out a lot. He’s let out of prison to help go after the titular “black hat hacker,” which is a hacker who means to do harm with his work. Hemsworth hardly gets to show off his physical skills as much as he does in Extraction, but Mann gives us other clever visuals to make up for any lack of action.
Tales by Light: Children in Need (2018)
This is a bit of a cheat, because “Children in Need” is really two episodes of the documentary series Tales by Light, but put together and then separated from the rest of the program, it can be considered a short documentary. Tales by Light follows photographers all around the world as they capture nature and culture in a variety of places. “Children in Need,” the first part of the third season is focused on photographer Simon Lister as he travels to Bangladesh.
Pirates of the Caribbean actor Orlando Bloom, who is also a UNICEF ambassador, co-stars in the documentary as the two men shine a light on poor children in the capital city of Dhaka. The portrayal of this metropolis in Extraction is mostly done with the Ban Pong district of Thailand’s Ratchaburi province filling in for Dhaka, so here’s your chance to see the real setting of the action movie and the reality for young boys in the city who aren’t all “Goonies from Hell.”