Iknew a drunk once who would hide things from himself when he was sober. For instance, he’d save money by tucking a couple of twenty-dollar bills in a book he knew he’d never pick up when plastered. Voila, forty bucks saved. But this guy was kind to his inebriated alter-ego, too. He’d buy foods he knew he’d love to eat after stumbling home from the bar, like Eggos. It’s always a nice surprise to find things you forgot you bought.
This is what I imagine Netflix is like: they produce blockbusters and then forget about them until the day before they’re supposed to be released. This is how I found out about the new action movie Extraction.
Last Thursday was when I learned Netflix was going to drop a $65 million dollar shoot ’em up starring one of the stars of the biggest movie franchise of all time. The movie dropped on Friday. It’s an international action thriller about a very sad soldier of fortune played by Chris Hemsworth hired to rescue the kidnapped son of an Indian drug lord from a rival gang in Bangladesh.
(Extraction is a boring name. This movie should have been called Slumdog Ragnarok.)
A big star. A big budget. Sure, the director is a newbie, but an experienced stunt-man who had worked with Hemsworth on those underappreciated Marvel movies. Extraction is pretty good. But I’m a sucker for this kind of trash.
The Netflix algorithm is mysterious but it knows my secret heart. I am a sensitive man. A pacifist who does not believe in violence. But I fucking adore action movies. (Now that I think about it I guess Netflix would know if I watched their ridiculous Michael Bay-directed circus of mayhem 6 Underground starring human wink Ryan Reynolds at least a dozen times.)
There are more important film genres but few are as much fun or as viscerally satisfying. An action movie is about a person pushed too far. They burst with emotion. Action movies are musicals with knuckles.
They sell the seductive fantasy that, yes, you can punch away your troubles. I know you can’t really do this. I’m a rational man who has faith in reason. I use my words when frustrated or scared or threatened. But wouldn’t it be great if I could stuff a grenade down the throat of my anxieties?
Action movies are collections of cliches and I look forward to each like the melodies of my favorite pop songs. I could watch an endless supercut of heroes loading guns with ammunition. My favorite one-liner of all time is from Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 1985 bone-cruncher Commando. In it, co-star Rae Dawn Chong asks Ah-nuld: “What you do with Sully?” “I let him go,” is his sillypants response. You see *snicker* Arnold had just dangled Sully over a cliff and then *snicker* let him fall to his death.
I’m a big fan of scenes where heroes patch themselves up. In fact, last year I wrote an entire essay about self-surgery scenes in action movies.
There are no morbid zingers in Extraction, sadly. However, there is ALOT of ammunition. Also: a couple of superb, and gag-inducing, knife fights. And there is a brief self-surgery scene. But, wait, there’s more: a deadly mission, a betrayal, and a fairly recent action convention I call The Gladiator, named after the 2000 sword-and-sandal saga starring a young Russel Crowe. The Gladiator is when a badly wounded hero woozily imagines reuniting with his deceased family members.
The star of Extraction, however, is Thor himself. Chris Hemsworth is an excellent bulldozer-sized badass. He’s The Living Spirit of Bacon. His character, a pill-popping killing machine for hire with a death wish, is named Tyler Rake. During one fight he kills someone with an actual rake. I don’t think it was a joke. I chuckled, though, when he throws a soldier at another soldier. There’s a truly breathtaking 12-minute single-take action scene through the streets of Dhaka, Bangladesh, too. The intense sequence includes lots of running, shooting, stabbing, punching, and two, count ’em two, car chases. Don’t blink or you’ll miss the explosions, too.
I’d watch Extraction 2: More Extraction. I guess I won’t know whether or not it’s going to happen until the day before it drops on Netflix. Oh, well. I like surprises. Here are 5 more thoughts I had while watching Chris Hemsworth pout and sweat and kick bad guys in the chest.
John Wick is modern art — a pulse-pounding ballet of violence with a warm smirk. Extraction features brutal hand-to-hand combat and close-quarters gunplay just like John Wick but it lacks a sense of humor. This is disappointing since Hemsworth is an extremely likable and funny actor. His Thor isn’t just some musclebound do-gooder. He’s a fully-realized comedic hero, pompous, vulnerable, insecure. In Extraction, his character is, you know, haunted by some shit. In addition to that, he’s a pill popper which you know because he’s always popping pills.
John Wick is a movie that features a special hotel where the world’s secret assassins are required by ancient law to not shed blood. There’s a disgusting sewer in Extraction. I enjoy realism in my action movies but a little levity never hurt a dangerous mission.
At first, I thought Extraction was a truly global production: a Hollywood action thriller that takes place in Bangladesh. Then I thought how refreshing it was that the evil drug lords in Extraction aren’t Mexican. Eventually, I came to accept that the movie is probably racist. A little bit, at least? I mean, Netflix is still very much an American company. And Extraction tells a classic American cinematic story that goes something like this: “Once upon a time, a lone white man killed a couple of hundred evil brown people.”
At least the non-white actors are amazing: Rudhraksh Jaiswal stars as the son of the Indian crime lord held for ransom. The movie is about his rescue. Rudrasksh is quietly charismatic. It makes sense that Hemsworth would risk it all to save him. Bollywood star Randeep Hooda is an ex-Special Forces warrior on the hunt for the boy Hemsworth is protecting. Hooda is soulful, intense, and badass. He should be cast in an English-speaking action movie immediately. Campy Bangladeshi supervillain Amir Asif is played by Priyanshu Painyuli, who I’m happy to report looks like he’s having fun.
I don’t want to spoil a cameo that happens about halfway through the movie because it was one of the most genuinely surprising and enjoyable parts of the movie. You may already know who I’m talking about but I didn’t when I watched it. If one person reading this goes into Extraction without knowing the very famous actor who shows up to help our heroes then my efforts will not have been in vain.
If I had known special forces have so many different kinds of pockets I’d have considered the military instead of art school. Apparently, highly-trained mercenaries wear vests and pants that are nothing but pockets. Some pockets can fit ammo and flares and smoke bombs and grenades. I’m guessing other pockets can hold magic markers, toenail clippers, and snacks. I’d have a pocket for lip balm, and a pocket for a collapsable back scratcher, and a pocket for a cigarette lighter. I don’t smoke but you never know when you’ll need one. I’d need a pocket for a compass! And a pocket for my tea tree oil-infused toothpicks! And a pocket for my blood pressure medication!
This is a man’s movie for men. That’s probably why there is only one woman in the whole movie. Thankfully, she’s not some helpless romantic interest. No, she’s French-Iranian actress Golshifteh Farahani who plays Nik Khan, a mysterious mercenary and Tyler’s cool-under-pressure boss. She commands the two most important skills of a movie super-soldier: she is good at shooting guns and staring without blinking. I just thought Farahani was great. Her character is a suave assassin who also gets one of the best kill scenes in the movie. I hope SHE pops up in any sequel.
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