EXTRACTION 2: Bigger! Bolder! Better…?

Photo courtesy of Netflix

When Extraction debuted on the Netflix platform three years ago, it had all the earmarks of being a calling card for its director, top-level stunt performer Sam Hargrave, and star, actor Chris Hemsworth. Within the film’s simple narrative of a disillusioned mercenary (Hemsworth) tasked with saving a young kidnapping victim from being used as a bargaining chip in a turf war, Hargrave delivered a true maximalist action spectacle. The film is loaded with intense gun battles, brutal brawls, and wild car chases that showcased Hargrave’s sharp directing skills and what Hemsworth was capable of, outside the confines of green screen acting in superhero films, with a performance that highlighted his dramatic abilities and his bruising physicality as an action star. 

Both men approached it as if they had something to prove. Nowhere was that more evident than in the jaw-dropping 12-minute continuous action scene at the film’s center that was designed to appear as one long, unbroken camera shot of Hemsworth’s character, Tyler Rake, battling his way through a stretch of urban sprawl in an effort to protect the child he’s rescuing. This daring sequence was a state-of-the-art melding of practical stunts, innovative fight design, and seamless digital editing. If Extraction was intended to be a calling card, this section of the film was a fist that shoved the card into the audiences’ collective faces and demanded they acknowledge it.

Photo courtesy of Netflix

Now, three years later, Sam Hargrave and Chris Hemsworth are back with a new Tyler Rake adventure, simply titled Extraction 2. Realistically, there are only so many logical paths that a narrative continuation can take for a film as straightforward as the original. Here, they opt for the old adage “bigger is better.” In doing so, Hargrave and his team have crafted a very similar, but grander, film that easily tops the controlled chaos of the first entry while also doubling down on all of its flaws.

Like the original, the weakest aspect on display is the script by Joe Russo (co-director of Avengers: Endgame), which finds Tyler being hired by someone from his past to rescue not just one child this time but an entire family who are being forcibly detained by their vicious gangster patriarch. The story, at a glance, is as simple as its predecessor but it layers in more dramatic moments for Hemsworth and returning cast member Golshifteh Farahani to shine. The majority of all the non-action moments are still very thinly sketched though, doing a disservice to the solid work by the pair and the rest of the cast. When the pace relents for brief intervals to let the audience breathe these moments feel longer than they should and teeter on the edge of being detrimental to Extraction 2’s propulsive nature. 

Photo courtesy of Netflix

Even the quieter moments that are well realized like the opening that shows Tyler’s unlikely survival after the events of the first film and the surprisingly realistic depiction of physical rehabilitation he goes through because of it are affected by oddly specific choices in the script. Quickly after the hospital montage, Tyler is back training on his own in a rural, snowy landscape in a scene that is so similar to one in Rocky 4 it has to be an intentional choice. And that juxtaposition is a little jarring. The original Extraction had moments like this too where the gritty post-John Wick “tacticool” seriousness of the film’s vibe slid headfirst into more 1980s-style action silliness. The first film, for example, cheekily had Tyler swiftly finish off a baddie with a piece of lawn equipment he shares a name with and plays that moment completely straight. Here with the sequel’s “more is more” approach, people are dispatched with multiple things that would be found in your uncle’s tool shed: a shovel, a pitchfork, nails, and exercise equipment. Extraction 2 is filled with the highest level of modern action filmmaking skill and a lot of it is in service of violent gags that would fit perfectly into a classic pun-filled Arnold Schwarzenegger film. It all feels very intentionally meta while being played earnestly straight. 

Poster image courtesy of Netflix

The thing is— these flaws and quirks, while apparent, don’t really matter. Why? Because this sequel succeeds beautifully at the thing that matters most for a movie like this- it’s legitimately fun and thrilling. Watching Hemsworth (and Farahani whose action role here has been significantly expanded from the first film) just decimate Eastern European thugs in various exceedingly savage ways is a joy. It’s hard to care much about things like thin characterization and incongruent tones when you have a jacked-to-the-gills Chris Hemsworth precision sniping henchman with a grenade launcher or taking out bad guys with literal flaming punches all beautifully captured by Sam Hargrave’s dynamic and confident direction.

The centerpiece of all the craziness on-screen in Extraction 2 is, of course, the staggering 21-minute unbroken rescue sequence that ups the ante from the original in every way by having Hemsworth’s Rake fight through a maximum security prison and a full-scale riot before engaging in a crash-heavy car chase (filled with enough vehicular destruction to make the ghost of Hal Needham smile) and eventually taking on attacking helicopters while standing atop a speeding train with a gigantic machine gun. It’s a technical marvel of an action scene full of memorable moments but here the length of the scene and the variety of settings make the digital seams, intended to hide the edits, a little more noticeable than previously. This is a minor complaint though. Taken as a whole, this audacious “oner” sums up Extraction 2 well. It’s bold, exciting, and every few minutes something so outlandishly cool happens that when a flaw does pop up it isn’t long before it’s completely overshadowed by all of the exceptionally crafted visual mayhem on display.

Extraction 2 is now available to stream worldwide on Netflix.

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