Taking an extremely deep breath and holding it for as long as I possibly can without passing out…
I am willing to admit that I was legitimately excited to watch Extraction 2 after its recent release on Netflix. Whew. There, I said it. You know what? It feels good to speak my truth and get that off my chest. They say acceptance is the first step in overcoming any amount of self-shame, right? Regardless of my try-hard attempt to curate a kind of faux-enlightened film prick persona for myself, I'm still just a movie simpleton at heart who is easily amused and willingly susceptible to flashing images and loud noises. Whatever, I am who I am and I like what I like... and apparently I'm someone who likes Extraction and its sequel. I don't care if you think less of me.
You remember Extraction, don't you? It showed up on Netflix just a few weeks into the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in April 2020 at a critical point during quarantine when many viewers most needed some cinematic respite. And like so many others at that vulnerable time, I welcomed this buzzy, mid-tier movie into my life for all that it was and all that it was not. Upon its release, Extraction became the most-watched original film in Netflix's history, with over 99 million viewers during the first four weeks. Despite its immediate streaming success, the movie was aptly labeled a trope-riddled, run-of-the-mill action flick with a problematic "white savior" complex. And just like that, it was denigrated for its extraordinary mediocrity and was soon exiled into the deep recesses of many Netflix subscribers’ “Top Picks for You" queues.
So here's the thing, it would be utter malpractice on my part to contend that the budding Extraction franchise achieves true greatness in any conceivable way, shape, or form. BUT it would also be disingenuous of me to turn my back on these two movies and pretend I don't enjoy them whatsoever. Lol, the plight of being honest. My opinion thus straddles the fence between dismissive embarrassment and shameless acceptance — dammit, disliking these movies altogether would be so much easier! Rather than blathering on, let's put aside the sort advanced interpretation and scholarly review we're all used to consuming on this blog for just a second (lol). Let's instead assess the flimsy merits of this wobbly franchise on a friendlier curve, one that fully embraces the inherent stupidity of action movies with one-word titles that serve to explain the whole plot. Let's leave the barrel-aged, high-ABV imperial stout in the fridge for now and crack open an ice-cold domestic lager with bright blue mountains on the can instead. Just this once, let's try to not snub or be snobby. You feel me? What say you?!
Tyler Rake, a fearless mercenary who offers his services on the black market, embarks on a dangerous mission when he is hired to rescue the kidnapped son of a Mumbai crime lord…*
The first film’s concept and setup are pretty standard fare, if not amusingly obvious and on-the-nose. Sometimes that can be enough. Tyler Rake (Hemsworth) is the gun-for-hire tasked with (you guessed it) extracting Ovi Mahajan. Ovi is the son of incarcerated Indian drug lord, Ovi Mahajan Sr., who has been kidnapped by corrupt police officers working for rival Bangladeshi drug lord Amir Asif (oh shit, now we're cooking). Rake, who is retired from special forces in the Australian military, is now a black-market mercenary with the sort of recklessness necessary for that line of work. He's also divorced and haunted by his past decision to return to active duty in the midst of his son's terminal battle with lymphoma — these are acutely deployed as minor-but-major details. At this point in his life, Rake has little to live for beyond the medicinal adrenaline that comes with his violent and dangerous day job. In exchange for his many sins, he may just be waiting to catch a stray bullet on the job.
Okay, so let's recap: Hemsworth plays a willing-to-go-rogue hireling with a death wish and an insatiable thirst for redemptive violence? Is this not a textbook definition of the "hardened action hero paralyzed by his own trauma" cliché? It's true when they say that men will literally become freelance paramilitary contractors instead of going to therapy. Except of course this time around things are different. Rake has found a surrogate son in Ovi and in turn, a renewed sense of purpose! Saving kids will do that to a person. Do you find any of this to be the least bit surprising?
What eleveates Extraction a cut above other cockamamie action thrillers of similar ambition and pedigree is its own self-awareness and commitment to the bit. While the screenplay is certainly clumsy and corny, the movie stays its course by adhering to a few simple (albeit formulaic) principles:
Easy enough, eh? The filmmaking blueprint here is uncomplicatedly arch in the best way possible, where gritty realism is generously offset by supreme outlandishness. Because of this I actually found myself more emotionally invested in the story than I might have been otherwise! Don't get me wrong, there are still plenty of moments where this approach is over-extended and doesn't hold up tonally (insert the scene where Hemsworth fights a bunch of kids), but even those deviations may be zany enough for some viewers to embrace (just kidding, even that fight sequence was a bridge too far). My primary criticism of Extraction is that it did not always fully endorse and enforce its own mission statement. Which brings us to the sequel.
Tasked with extracting a family who is at the mercy of a Georgian gangster, Tyler Rake infiltrates one of the world’s deadliest prisons in order to save them. But when the extraction gets hot, and the gangster dies in the heat of battle, his equally ruthless brother tracks down Rake and his team to Sydney, in order to get revenge.
Sequels have the luxury of narrative familiarity, which can embolden creators to take more chances and cut corners more precisely. The best sequels are more of a refinement than a reinvention, where storytelling choices feel predictable but are often easier to manipulate. Second time's a charm, I guess. So where Extraction may have stumbled, Extraction 2 often thrives. Rather than just simply leaning into established genre tropes, this sequel makes a point to wholeheartedly embrace them. This time around its all gas and no brakes, and Extraction 2 is leaner and meaner than its predecessor because it is unafraid to loudly state the obvious and go for broke.
After barely surviving his mission in Dhaka, Tyler Rake retired to life in an Austrian cabin. But in no time at all, he is called back into the field, this time to rescue his ex-wife Mia's sister Ketevan (Tinatin Dalakishvili), and her two children Sandro (Andro Japaridze) and Nina (Miriam and Marta Kovziashvili). Unfortunately for everyone involved, Ketevan is married to Davit Radiani (Tornike Bziava), who is one of the co-founders of the largest crime syndicate in Georgia. In his imprisonment, he has forced his family to live in the prison with him (c'mon man, yikes). Answering the familial call of duty, Tyler infiltrates the prison and during the extraction (lol, I had to), he and Ketevan are attacked by Davit, whom Tyler ends up killing. Despite narrowly escaping the prison riot, the team's safety is short-lived thanks to Sandro alerting his dad's entourage to the their whereabouts (there's some real teenage angst and daddy issues going on here). After another narrow escape from the evil brigade, Tyler is able to commiserate with Mia (Olga Kurylenko) about his disappearance right before their son's death from cancer. And as you probably assumed, a final showdown transpires where Tyler is able to do what he does best. Keep the formula, kids.
Maybe I didn't sell that enough. Extraction 2 is good! The deliverance on the formulaic principles outlined in the first movie allow this sequel to be even more potent and harebrained in all the right ways. This time around, everything hums along with increased immediacy. The action set pieces are stunning, and Hargrave ups the ante by pulling off a 21-minute one-shot action scene that surpasses the first film's oner by 9 full minutes. Sure, if you look closely you'll see the seams, but the overall direction and choreography is kinetic and effective. Extraction 2 knows when, where, and how to flex its muscles; it's convincingly designed so that all disbelief stay in a constant state of suspension.
Both Extraction movies was written by Joe Russo along with his brother Anthony, both of whom are best known for directing four prominent films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, including Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame — my guess is that you're perhaps familiar with those two titles. Both movies are directed by stunt coordinator-turned director Sam Hargrave, who is best known for his collaborations with the Russo brothers on many of those MCU films. And in the starring role is Chris Hemsworth, the bulky, hunky Aussie who — obviously — is best known for his performance as Thor in those very same MCU films, from which he went on to become one of the world's most recognized and highest-paid actors. Hemsworth has always had an undeniable on-screen presence and physicality, but here he shoulders the loud in ways he hasn't had to before. He has great chemistry with his co-star Golshifteh Farahani., who plays Tyler's counterweight and de-facto partner, Nik Khan. Their professional partnership feels authentic, and together they balance each other out and co-create a kind of credible chemistry. In both films, other supporting performances (particuarly Randeep Hooda as Saju Rav in Extraction) and some well-deployed cameos (David Harbour and Idris Elba in the two films, respectively) inject an extra dose of energy and misdirection that keeps the audience guessing. The technical aspects of both movies are all up to snuff, and I'll call special attention to Henry Jackman and his video game style score. Everything is solid across the board, though every screw is tightened or loosened accordingly in the sequel.
Needless to say, Extraction is exactly the kind of movie you'd expect someone to make after scaling blockbuster Everest multiple times over, and Extraction 2 is the continuation and distillation of that creative pursuit. At the ultimate peak of their commercial and creative cachet, the Russo brothers decided to parlay their MCU fame into making a flashy and splashy straight-to-streamers that are buoyed by an exorbitant budget and headlined by the God of Thunder. Can you really blame them? After having the likes of Kevin Feige and Bob Iger peering over their shoulders for years, it must've been refreshing to footle about on Netflix's nickel and not worry about box office returns, delivering on fan service, or making serialized storytelling decisions. For the record, when you make the biggest movies in the world, I think you should be allowed to do whatever the hell you want afterward (except for The Gray Man — but let's please not talk about The Gray Man).
So maybe Extraction wasn't aiming to reinvent the wheel, but the sequel knows just how to keep the wheel spinning in the right direction. So yes, what happens minute-to-minute is discernibly dumb, but Extraction 2 proves that the franchise has enough baked-in self-awareness to not over-extend its scope or over-promise on quality. With this sequel, the filmmakers rightly steer into their strengths with a knowingness and swagger that isn't disruptive to the overall tone and tempo. I'm no longer afraid to admit that I'm looking forward to another sequel.
Remember when I casually dropped a reference to cracking open an ice-cold domestic lager with bright blue mountains on the can? Yeah, that was very intentional. Even still I stand by this pairing. I say if you're going to spend any of your time watching Hemsworth pummel a bunch of inmates during a prison riot, you should have at least six cold beers at the ready. Just sit back and enjoy that Rocky Mountain High.
Coors Light Light Lager | 4.2% ABV Coors Brewing Company (Molson-Coors) @coorslight