Hollywood is especially good at delivering hearty spectacle for its action. Oftentimes there are productions that don’t always exude this in the finest form, and it’s at moments like Friday’s streaming release of Sam Hargrave’s feature directing debut, Extraction, when you’re thankful that it doesn’t fall into this category. Quite the welcoming opposite.
After more than fifteen years, and ten in which he’s excelled massively on some of the biggest studio projects to hit the big screen, it’s understandable the level of frustration felt by such a big scale film hitting the home markets instead. Certainly, the unforeseeable circumstances of the current Covid-19 pandemic at the time of production factor into this.
Nonetheless, you get what you’ve payed for in movie tickets and home sales, to the benefit of an astute industry stunt professional in Hargrave, who, much like many of his peers from the worldwide indie scene, including Eric Jacobus, Dennis Ruel and Fabien Garcia, comes both well-suited and amply-backed to make an appropriate career transition into the director’s chair. Thus, joining the ranks of Chad Stahelski, David Leitch, Ric Roman Waugh, Sammo Hung, Jackie Chan, and even late icons like Hal Needham and Bruce Lee.
More to the point, it’s Hargrave’s own affinity for Hong Kong cinema that served as one of his biggest motivators going into film. It’s defintiely aided into shaping his own vision for applying action on film, a vision signified by the company he’s kept in the last several years, particularly since working on a select number of titles from Disney’s Marvel Cinematic Universe, alongside Thor/Avengers saga actor Chris Hemsworth, and AGBO’s own Joe and Anthony Russo.
Storied and scripted by the Russos with inspiration from Ande Parks’ 2014 novel, “Ciudad”, Hemsworth, who is also producer, trades his prolific Marvel superhero moniker, Asgardian garb and an axe named Jarnbjorn for brooding tragic heroism, heavy-handed fisticuffs and tactical threads as Tyler Rake, unafraid to high dive for the hell of it, straight into waters for a meditational reprieve before surfacing back up into a world that’s made him weary of living.
By trade, his soldiering days have rendered him reclusive, seperated from his wife while working the occasional job as a black market mercenary. His latest task arrives courtesy of handler Nik (Golshifteh Farahani), with word on the kidnapping of an imprisoned gangster’s son named Ovi (Rudhraksh Jaiswal), by a vicious rival named Amir (Priyanshu Painyuli), whose penchant for demanding fingers as penance for betrayal (you know, gangster shit), adequately serves his reputation.
Aside from the sprawling action and intrigue, you get a character study that’s typically similar to the kind of redemption tale that usually starts off with the protagonist’s bleak entry into the narrative. With Extraction, though, it’s not a chore to endure. The formula here lends itself to feasible for lean story that far from rests on its laurels, and doesn’t rely much on frills so as to encourage you to take the film seriously. Hemsworth scores here with his teenage co-star in Jaiswal, bringing a level of wit and chemistry to the screen that self-nourishes between respite moments of gunfire atop buildings, narrow alleys and bustling streets, and during the downtime as the film prepares its next pivotal plot twist and intense action sequence.
The action intensifies even more with the introduction of actor Randeep Hooda in the role of Saju, who plays lieutenant to Ovi’s crimeboss father in prison (Pankaj Tripathi). His character aptly carries the action going forward in the first half, side-by-side with Tyler and Ovi in a pulse-pounding, cleverly-edited eleven-minute one-take action scene that bodes as the penultimate flex for filmmakers today. Even actor David Harbour gets to throw down for a bit in the second half as Gaspar, whom Hemsworth’s Rake is owed a favor to after once saving his life.
Fight choreography throughout measures exactly what Hargrave himself has achieved on previous productions like Wu Jing’s Wolf Warrior 2, for example, aided by a team of coordinators and professionals from Hollywood, India and Thailand. By the time of this read, there are already reactions to the fight scenes in this film on social media, brandishing comparisons to John Wick franchise, which isn’t exactly dishonest. Hemsworth has played firearm-using characters before, and it serves well to his training and overall coordination to what the stunt team puts together and looks for.
Extraction more than establishes Amir as a notable villain with influence, offering up an antagonist who also exploits children for their servitude as child soldiers. In doing so, the film manages illustrates a certain grim dichotomy between children of privilege and those of poverty, though its less so employed as any sort of messaging, as opposed to its importance toward character development and story progress. It definitely takes things into a arid territory by the film’s end, though it does so with some tiny measure of poetic buoyancy.
Hargrave’s feature directing debut with Extraction presents a familiar redemption tale that doesn’t try too hard to be anything more than it is, while delivering the goods on where good filmmaking matters. The drama stands on its own, and the action will certainly keep you company for the hour and fifty minutes of the film’s runtime; Even Hargrave himself gets a small role in here as well, and if you’re eager to see him in a character with more prominent screentime, you’ll be pleased with what he brings to Dennis Ruel’s own 2015 feature debut, Unlucky Stars.
In conclusion, Hargrave’s moves over the last decade-and-a-half have all been a step in the right direction, and, chiefly with some titles today lacking the kind of acumen and coherence that makes for quality action cinema, all the more indicative of an industry that needs artists like him now more than ever, no matter to the contrary.
Extraction is now available on Netflix
Lead pic: Jason Boland/Netflix