Extraction 2 (2023) Movie Review: Sam Hargrave’s “Extraction” dropped on Netflix during the first wave of the pandemic. In the midst of a lockdown, viewers were naturally glued to an action vehicle with Chris Hemsworth’s Tyler Rake tackling a routine “extraction” of a hostage from Dhaka and killing bad guys along the way.
For Indians, it was an extra treat because Randeep Hooda played the secondary and yet most presentable antagonist who could go toe to toe with Tyler Rake, and he was one of two bright spots in an utterly forgettable film in terms of plotting, cursory storytelling, or compelling characters. The second glowing spot would be Hargrave’s control and mastery in crafting action set-pieces via long-take sequences.
The centerpiece of the first film had been four consecutive action set pieces: a foot chase, a car chase shot from the inside of the car, a chase and gunfight through an apartment building, and finally, a knife fight and hand-to-hand combat scene, all interweaved to look like a single action set piece for over 10 minutes.
Fear not, fans of that set-pieces, because there is an even more extended action set-piece present here, starting from a prison breakout to a riot, a car chase, a train hijack, and finally ending in a train crash. And that all occur in the first act, with this strung-out action set-piece running for over 20 minutes.
It is pretty noticeable how heavily edited the long-take action set-piece is, and this action piece has even more use of CG and digital backgrounds. Nevertheless, Hargrave’s hold in creating these set pieces and ensuring the clear movement of the punches or the crisply edited gunfights helps the viewer be immersed. It also helps that Hemsworth as Rake, while very much an impenetrable badass in that action set-piece, still gets visibly overwhelmed.
Hemsworth’s character being visibly exhausted or sometimes out of touch is also accounted for due to the nature of the mission. Extraction 2 seems to have taken the criticisms of the first film to heart because “this time, the mission is personal” isn’t just a blurb to be parroted around in trailers.
Extraction takes copious amounts of time to flesh out Tyler Rake and his road to recovery following the events of the last film, re-establishing and reintroducing his friendship with fellow mercenaries Nik (Golshifteh Farahani) and her brother Yaz (Adam Bessa) and even taking a moment to explore the “personal connection” Rake has with the current target he has to extract.
The character development of Rake overall feels cursory. Still, a moment in the final act between Rake and another character completes a character arc that had been touched on in the previous movie. In that regard, Extraction 2 does succeed.
Where Extraction 2 doesn’t succeed is in crafting a compelling villain. The cardinal mistake Joe Russo (Captain America: Infinity War, Avengers: Endgame) makes as a writer is confusing the dumping of backstory with character development. No amount of backstory or explanation of motivation could change Tornike Gogrichiani’s depiction of Georgian gangster Zurab as anything other than a cliched Eastern European psychopathic gangster. The viewer’s interest in the villain is piqued only by how Rake interacts with him and how their combat scenes ensue.
So viewers will have to deal with that bloat in the runtime. Thankfully, the action scenes only become more kinetic and start easing up on the throttle to become ridiculous as the action shifts to an entire city block with helicopters and missile launchers entering the fray to attack and cause mayhem.
Thankfully, Golshifteh Farahani’s Nik Khan gets far greater screentime here. Hargrave devotes ample real estate to showing off her moves, which truthfully seems like a bargain rather than completely wasting her acting talents. However, by the time the movie is winding down towards the finish line, it starts to feel its length, and you feel as exhausted as Tyler and Zurab when they are both crawling towards the gun to get the final shot in the “battle to the death.”
It’s a shame because the movie does open itself up to a sequel, with a cameo by Idris Elba promising an expansion to the franchise. And Hargrave and his collaborators seem to have struck a chord here regarding a franchise built on action movies for streaming. The cursory character development shown here shouldn’t be a cause for celebration.
Still, it merits discussion, and a better writer might be able to balance out the character moments and the kinetic balletic moments effectively in later installments. Even if that won’t be the case, the inevitable sequel at least promises an even longer “long take” action set-piece. What does the future hold, I wonder? “Extraction” by way of the Scott Adkins-led “One Shot” or Sam Mendes’ 1917? The storytelling needs to be stronger in subsequent installments because the novelty of this gimmick will run out very quickly.