Sam Hargrave (director)
1h 56mins (length)
23 April 2022 (released)
30 April 2020
With The Avengers now on a break for the time being, all eyes are on what Marvel's superstars will do next, and for Chris Hemsworth, the answer is Netflix's brutal high-octane action thriller Extraction.
Helmed by Marvel stunt specialist-turned-director Sam Hargrave from a script penned by Joe Russo, co-director of Avengers: Endgame, Extraction sees Hemsworth trade in his oversized hammer and comic-book violence for an extensive arsenal of weapons and the R-rated real thing.
In the film, adapted from a graphic novel co-written by Russo, the Thor actor plays Tyler Rake, a mercenary with soldiering skills as improbable as his name. Tasked with rescuing Ovi (newcomer Rudhraksh Jaiswal), the kidnapped son of an imprisoned Indian crime lord, he must negotiate both the backstreets and sewers of Dhaka, Bangladesh to keep his charge safe and complete his mission.
It's certainly an action-packed ride - from the film's opening act you're barely a scene away from a gun battle on the streets, sniper fire, a motorbike getaway, or scrambled scamper from the authorities. As a whole, it is terrifically absurd, with Rake a one-man army in the style of John Wick, but on their own, scenes are thrillingly plausible and well-constructed, with Rake's struggle to see off a gang of teenage street thugs and the police early highlights.
The problem with the film, however, is that while the gritty action is as beautifully put together as you'd expect from a stuntman and coordinator who has doubled for Chris Evans' Captain America in the past, the lightness of touch and coherence of the best action thrillers are absent. There is little of the deadpan comedy one gets from the John Wick films or the witty subversiveness of an old school Shane Black crime caper. Nor is there the exploration of serious and complex themes one would find in something like the Bourne franchise.
Hemsworth is, of course, a terrific comic actor and builds up a decent rapport with his young charge, but there's a lack of depth to the film that stops him becoming the surrogate father he is supposed to be. Similarly, other key relationships, such as with his go-between employer Nik (Golshifteh Farahani) and his eccentric, untrustworthy pal Gaspar (Stranger Things' David Harbour), never feel organic and are simply constructs designed to give Rake's dash between perilous situations some structure.
The villain of the piece, gang lord and kidnapper Amir Asif (Priyanshu Painyuli), also never gets quite under Rake's or the audience's skin, despite being played with understated elegance - mainly because the film is much more interested in having Hemsworth face a hail of gunfire than a fully rounded nemesis.
That said, there's plenty here to like for lovers of boisterous action movies, not to mention fans of Hemsworth - who spends most of Extraction showing that he only needs his blood and sweat-soaked biceps rather than Mjolnir to cause carnage.
An emotional and action-filled finale also makes up somewhat for earlier missed character beats, but ultimately, Extraction is more style than substance - never quite packing the punching power of either its lead character or the star who plays him.