Somewhere in between the balletic symphony of violence that is the John Wick franchise and the grounded brute force of Paul Greengrass’ work on the Bourne films sits Extraction 2, an action film that emphasizes precise choreography and physicality, but embraces a sense of enclosure and chaos that films like the Wicks and that series’ countless imitators have refused to embrace. Sam Hargrave, who directed the first Extraction after a storied career as a stuntman and stunt coordinator, returns to the director’s chair for the second entry in the saga of Tyler Rake, an elite mercenary who has to, you guessed it, extract a target from a perilous situation. However, the sequel really turns the first film on its head by revolving the story around a drug kingpin from Georgia (the country, not the state) instead of a drug kingpin from Mumbai. Revolutionary!
The truth is, you don’t come to an Extraction film for the intricate plot, you come to see a man named Tyler Rake do things like… kill a man with a rake (which is a thing that happens in the first film). Honestly, the beauty of the franchise is its simplicity. You can extract anyone from anywhere in any movie as an excuse to stage tense, stylish set pieces, and that’s completely okay. Aim low, hit your target, give the audience what they want. That is exactly what Extraction 2, just like its predecessor, does; it even adds a dash of emotional heft to the mix, for good measure. Rake is played by Chris Hemsworth, who is one of the few modern action stars worthy of sitting on the mantle with the greats of the past. Hemsworth has the presence, charm, physicality, and, yes, acting chops to elevate whatever schlock he is asked to take on. He has made it abundantly clear that he is interested in acting in films above and beyond the action genre, and that is a big part of why he is such a great action star. Does a film like Extraction 2 need to have a scene about parental regret that is sure to draw tears from many viewers? No, but it gives a movie in which a man’s skull gets crushed by a leg press a little more pathos than is to be expected.
Putting the film’s emotional crux to the side, it is important to reiterate that this is a film in which a man’s skull gets crushed by a leg press, and that is one of a dozen moments in the film that will have viewers who are into that sort of thing pumping their fists and the ones who aren’t rushing to cover their eyes. Extraction 2 is a film that is unabashedly violent, and its violence is just a tad more brutal than what has become the norm in 2023. The timing of the fight scenes is exquisite and you can tell so much work has been put into the choreography, but this movie is a hammer rather than a blade. Beyond being an intimidatingly muscular figure, Hemsworth possesses an athleticism and nimbleness that many actors in films like Extraction 2 lack. A lead with that level of physical competence makes for a more visceral, satisfying viewing experience.
Looking at the cast beyond Hemsworth, there isn’t too much to say. Several familiar faces are back from the original, though they mostly come off as cardboard cutouts of action sidekicks and villains, rather than valuable emotional assets. The script from Joe Russo, one half of the Marvel juggernauts the Russo brothers, is only concerned with true characterization in spurts. Golshifteh Farahani, who plays Rake’s closest professional associate, is the closest thing the film has to an emotional counterpart for the contract killer, while native Georgian Tornike Gogrichiani is serviceable as the wafer-thin villain of the film, the hearing-impaired drug lord, Kurab. Some other actors have a few standout moments, but this is really a film that Hemsworth has to carry on his strong, broad shoulders, and he does it with incredible aplomb.
Fortunately for Hemsworth, he does have a great asset on his side with director Sam Hargrave, who uses some clever camera tricks and selective editing to build tension and make the film’s most creative bursts of violence really pop. There is one scene in this film that takes place in and around a gym that could go toe-to-toe with just about any action sequence in 2023 and beyond. Hargrave takes advantage of digital camera technology, something far too few filmmakers do, by showcasing close quarters tracking shots, disorienting framing, and some very impressive drone work. It’s really a shame that 99% of viewers will see this on Netflix, because there is some truly cinematic work being done in Extraction 2, putting aside the signature Netflix Sheen™ that continues to plague almost all of the streaming giant’s original releases.
Eagle-eyed viewers will spot a major movie star who has entered the fray as what appears to be the Nick Fury of the Extraction saga, guaranteeing that Tyler Rake will continue to extract as long as Netflix will allow him, injuries and trauma be damned. That is the world of mainstream Hollywood; there is nothing new about this strategy. There is something very cynical about this business model that tends to seep into one’s opinions of franchise like this. However, most films don’t have wonderfully composed and tracked sequences where a man gets his face held against a furnace, his hand ripped open at the seams, stabbed in the neck, then hit in the head with a shovel. When something like that happens, the sour flavor of franchise machinations wash away… for some, anyway.
Netflix will release Extraction 2 on June 16.
Photo: Jasin Boland/Netflix