Beggars can’t be choosers during the global lock-down. Cinemas are closed, blockbuster movies and their smaller brethren delayed, and Netflix’s back catalogue has been squeezed drier than a tube of antibacterial hand gel.
So when the streaming platform serves up a new release, written and produced by the all-conquering Russo brothers no less, audiences were understandably salivating. We’re starving prisoners, quarantined in cells of self-isolation. Sadly, their serving, Extraction, isn’t nourishing fare. It’s all bone, gristle, and lumpy mashed potato. We’ve been cooked this dish before, better, and with more flavor.
The set-menu reads: Bangladeshi Drug Lord kidnaps Indian Drug Lord’s son. Indian Drug Lord hires tough white guy to kidnap son back. Tough white guy travels to Bangladesh, dispatches hordes of red shirts, blows stuff up. This isn’t fine dining. The Russo’s have cobbled together a bunch of stock ingredients, added heat, and hoped the end result would make an acceptable meal. It hasn’t. One would expect more from the Michelin-starred chefs behind the highest-grossing movie of all time (“Avengers: Endgame”).
Our tough white guy here is Tyler Rake (Chris Hemsworth, “Bad Times at the El Royale”), a likeable Aussie bloke who’s also good at shooting people. We’re introduced to Rake when he’s off-the-job, on a sunny clifftop, just hanging out with some mates and a box of cold ones. Suddenly, he leaps from the edge, plunging 30 meters into the water below. Rake doesn’t surface. Is he OK? The mates are worried. Then we see him, resting on the lake bed, legs crossed in a meditative pose. This guy is ICE COLD. But wait, he’s frowning . . . We’re shown flashbacks of a blurry wife and child. Our hero isn’t calm and composed. He’s tormented. Sad. Troubled by loss.
Tyler Rake is the action man we’ve seen many, many, many times before: The badass good guy who couldn’t care less whether he lives or dies. Indeed, it’s precisely this lack of self-preservation that makes him so bloody deadly. Tyler Rake is Riggs in “Lethal Weapon.” Or Tony Montana in “Scarface.” Or John Wick in “John Wick.” We can practically see Hemsworth clipping Keanu Reeve’s magazine into his own Glock 9mm.
One of the few elements of spice arises from the film’s setting. Dhaka is shown as a mysterious, thrumming, chaotic city. Chases and action sequences capture its frenetic atmosphere, whilst the ever-amber sun illuminates the colorful street culture. Yet still, for a country like Bangladesh that has seldom seen Hollywood’s spotlight, it all feels terribly familiar. One can picture an out-of-work editor producing something similar by chopping together scenes from “Slumdog Millionaire,” “The Raid: Redemption” and “Thor: Ragnarok.” It feels awfully unoriginal, regurgitated.
A fresh ingredient to the stew, however, is young actor Rudhraksh Jaiswal (“Kosha”), who plays doe-eyed kidnapee Ovi. His innate vulnerability and admiration of Rake as protector and “big brother” offer rare emotional moments of texture. Sadly, they’re not enough to invest us in the success of Rake’s rescue mission, which finds us counting down the minutes to a videogame-like conclusion.
Watching Extraction feels akin to staring at the front cover of a Bangladeshi travel guide and never opening to the first page. I found myself imagining Tyler Rake kicking in my front door, putting a bag over my head, and rescuing me from this militaristic flag-waving rehash. Inexplicably, there are talks of a sequel. Extraction is one too many portions already.