The film tries to conjure up a ‘khichuri’ recipe when you have random supply of ingredients in the freezer
Action films are never about plots. But it is worrying if you have to keep remembering that while watching one. Netflix’s latest business stunt Extraction ensembles big names of Hollywood; the Russo brothers as writer and producer, the mighty Thor Chris Hemsworth and stuntman turned debutant director Sam Hargrave. These people are part of the success story of the Avengers franchise and thus carry weight in the industry but seem to be unable to carry it into this latest venture.
Hemsworth plays Tyler Rake who is hired by Indian drug lord Mahajan to rescue Ovi, his son, who has been kidnapped by Mahajan’s Bangladeshi rival Amir Asif. Loading up on guns, grenades, muscle and khaki, the hero ‘extracts’ the boy within the first act of the film. But things never go according to plan. By shooting, driving and blowing up trucks through the city, Rake embarks on getting himself and the boy out of the grubby, messy, unrealistic city of Dhaka crawling with little brats carrying guns and a security (?) force of some kind who are clone troopers of Amir Asif. Sounds like a cliché? Yes, it is one, and not the kind that makes you say, “yes, the good ol’ action film!” but rather the type where you say, “Oh, just another action film”.
The car chases, actions and explosions lose their punch without any punctuation due to bad dialogues and dry drama in between, almost like a notch-down Michael Bay film. Other than one action sequence played out in the hallways of a building which makes you feel like you are watching someone play a video game, the only whiff of interest the film seems to ignite is the presence of David Harbour. The beloved sheriff of Hawkins from Stranger Things proves to have a screen presence amidst the constipated expressions of Hemsworth. It is easier to empathize with bad guy Harbour’s character, even after the revelation of Rake’s painful past.
The film is an adaptation of a graphic novel written by the Russo brothers titled Ciudad which is set in Paraguay, South America where the drug lords and street gangs depicted in the film are much closer to reality than in Dhaka. The Russo brothers seem to have forgotten that unlike CGI, you cannot just copy-paste an action onto a different background location without any change in context when adapting a script from a different medium. Making Dhaka the film’s setting required changes in the crime world depicted. It feels like the producing team gave no heed to any kind of research into the local scenario of crime practice. Certainly, there is nothing new or unexpected about these oversights by Hollywood commercial films. Only, as a Bangladeshi audience, the ultra-imaginative Dhaka becomes an obstacle in suspending disbelief while watching the film.
Much has already been said about the film’s depiction of Dhaka. But the film is so appallingly typical that its lack of attention to detail pertains even to basic aspects such as character development, dialogue, or storytelling, let alone its authenticity of the locale. The risk-free approach to clichéd tropes end up making Extraction just another ‘guy’ movie, with sweat, blood and dirt in a man’s world where women stay physically far away from the action and only use snipers or work behind the scenes. And this particular khaki coloured man-world is much closer to worlds of the gun-reviewers on YouTube than any other.
Overall, the film tries to conjure up a ‘khichuri’ recipe when you have random supply of ingredients in the freezer. A bit of gun-waving children and drugs from City of God, a bit of khaki and bulletproof vests packed with magazines from Call of Duty and a pinch of Jet Li and Jackie Chan mercenary action films from the 1990s might have worked, if homage and affection was the purpose of sourcing them. Instead as Hargrave revealed recently, even the ending of the film was a purely business decision than a creative one.
To wrap it up, I will stick to my Jet Li mercenary films much longer than this. The film as a film is not of much importance. But what is of importance here is Netflix’s aggressive devising to expand their South Asian markets by choosing to change the location of the story to the Indian Subcontinent. Of course, it should be noted that the delay of release of Black Widow, No Time to Die and Wonder Woman 1984 played a huge role in the film’s success.
Tazeen Ahmed is a Senior Lecturer, Department of Media and Communications at Independent University, Bangladesh