Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Golshifteh Farahani, David Harbour, Rudhraksh Jaiswal, Randeep Hooda, Pankaj Tripathi, Chris Jai Alex, Priyanshu Painyuli
Director: Sam Hargrave
Rating: 2.5 stars ( out of 5)
An action choreographer's stamp is all over Extraction. Directed by Sam Hargrave, stunt coordinator of Avengers: Endgame and Captain America: Civil War, the film is bang on with its explosions, gunfights, hand-to-hand combats and chases, all lensed without taking the foot off the pedal. The rest is strictly middling.
The Joe Russo-scripted thriller is feather-light on the emotional scale. That apart,Extraction gets the sights and sounds of Dhaka all wrong. The city is supposedly a key character in the film but it never acquires a distinct, tangible character. It's merely a backdrop for Chris Hemsworth to turn on the heat. He does.
The Netflix actioner, which also features the ever-luminous Golshifteh Farahani and the rock-steady Randeep Hooda in principal roles, takes liberties with critical specifics of the locale. It has been filmed in Mumbai, Ahmedabad and Thailand. But that cannot explain the wide berth it gives to the cultural markers of the Bangladeshi capital beyond the chaos and congestion of its lanes and markets.
Extraction is peppered with helicam shots of the city. The Buriganga river and the Sultana Kamal Bridge pop up frequently in conversations. But when the film hits the ground, it is a tangle. The Bangla signages on shop-fronts and three-wheelers are awry, 'drawn' by a painter rather than 'written' by somebody who knows the language. Worse, the actors barely nail the Dhaka street patois. Hemsworth spouts two Bangla words: "Pramaan dao (Give me proof)." No convincing evidence is, however, offered to suggest that the thought that has gone into executing the high-octane action sequences - one of them plays out in a stunningly staged 12-minute seemingly single take - has been replicated in crafting the soundscape.
When the infallible hero runs in and out of houses in the city with policemen snapping at his heels, it is difficult to tell the pursuer from the pursued. That is not as bad as the weird soundtrack. Snatches of Bollywood hits (Ankhiyon se goli maare, Mehendi laga ke rakhna and Ek ladki ko dekha toh aisa laga) float in the air. This is Dhaka, not Mumbai. But is all this likely to get in the way once the audience has been sucked into the film's whirlwind rhythm? We reckon not.
The principal antagonist inExtraction, a Dhaka drug lord played by Priyanshu Painyuli, unleashes a pack of human hounds, in police uniform and otherwise, on the valiant hero and a boy he has been tasked with rescuing. But the screenplay does not allow the baddie to evolve into the dreaded figure he is cracked up to be.
He is described as "Dhaka's very own Pablo Escobar". But he hangs back on the side-lines, barking out orders and bullying hapless street children instead of jumping into the pit and getting his hands dirty. A movie powered by Chris "Thor" Hemsworth probably needs no help with the heavy lifting. But the absence of a worthy adversary undermines the protagonist's mighty heroics.
Extraction hits top gear 20 minutes in. From then on, the violence is unrelenting. Nik (Farahani) enlists Tyler Rake (Hemsworth) for a high-risk extraction job. A 14-year-old boy, Ovi Mahajan (Rudhraksh Jaiswal), son of a jailed Mumbai gangster (Pankaj Tripathi in a single scene), has been abducted by the drug lord who, as Nik points out to Tyler, "holds a massive sway in Dhaka".
Back in harness, Tyler goes hell for leather. He has to reckon with armed boys and trigger-happy policemen led by a rogue colonel (Shitaf Figar) as well as with Saju (Hooda), a former special services officer who works for Ovi's father and is in Dhaka to ensure that his master's son comes to no harm.
Hargrave's directorial style favours close-range clashes and bust-ups. He weaves his way into and around the action with wildly fluid hand-held cameras, whipping up pace and evoking in the viewer a sense of being caught in the middle of the hyper-violent goings-on. He informs the film's core with immediacy and raw physicality, which is heightened by Hemsworth's muscular presence and his cracking on-screen dynamic with Randeep Hooda.
The two hunks have back stories. One seeks redemption for an act of omission and a personal tragedy, the other is in the fight to save his wife (Neha Mahajan) and only son. Nik, a woman in a man's world, is given no clear context. But Farahani, radiant even when the world around her is up in flames, prevents the character from being just another appendage.
Extraction tries its bit to probe aspects of three separate father-son relationships. Apart from the abducted Ovi - a confident Jaiswal does not let anything around him, not even a Hollywood megastar in great form, swamp him - the narrative has many a boy who pays the price of a lost childhood. One of them nearly loses two fingers to prove his loyalty to his gangster boss but, despite the odds, he continues to serve as a foot soldier who counts for nothing.
In one early scene, after Tyler has rescued Ovi from his abductors, a boy, fear and vulnerability writ large on his face, cocks a rifle and takes aim at the hero. Tyler takes the gun away from the child and, with a nod of the head, shoos him away. Tyler may be morally slack but he does have inviolable rules in the matter of dealing with children.
The coiled-up energy that courses through Extraction is a generic necessity. So, it would appear, is its 'ethical' cloak. But the two are at odds with each other. The former flows from the very nature of the film, the latter isn't that organic. Ignore that opposition and you might enjoy enough of Extraction not to be unduly put off by the parts that don't work.
(Extraction streams on Netflix from April 24 in English, Hindi, Tamil and Telugu)