Friday, June 30, 2023

Back to Extract: Extraction 2 (2023) Review

Director: Sam Hargrave

Notable Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Golshifteh Farahani, Adam Bessa, Tornike Gogrichiani, Tornike Bziava, Tinatin Dalakishvili, Andro Japaridze, Justin Howell, Idris Elba, Olga Kurylenko, Daniel Bernhardt


Netflix is making some entertaining films, but I feel like there is a problem. 


Extraction 2 recently dropped on Netflix instead of theaters, green-lit after whatever imaginary numbers that Netflix made up for the viewership of the first film. Like many sequels, Extraction 2 suffers from a bit of sequel-itis as it attempts to go bigger, badder, and broader with what fans loved in the first one and, like many sequels, it tends to lose some of its grip on the ground in doing so. Those who loved that its predecessor was a gritty old-school action hero thrust into exponentially rising action with exponential chances of failure will appreciate the larger scope of this one and Hemsworth’s stone-cold performance. Those fans who loved the militaristic and earthy realism of the original may find themselves lost in the sillier action formulas that Extraction 2 starts to dabble in. 


To say it simply, Extraction 2 is more of a mixed bag, but it is the kind of throwback action flick that’s meant to be seen on the most giant screen possible. It's loud and proud of itself, but seeing it at home takes away some of the fun of it. And it feels as though its hero and his plight in Georgia (the country, thanks) deserve more than just decaying in the Netflix Graveyard where streaming films go to die. 


Note: I will have to spoil a few elements of Extraction but I’ll do my best to keep it limited. 


It doesn’t help that the ending of Extraction left our heroic lead’s fate vague as he tumbles from a bridge with a vicious neck wound. The grounded war-film aspects of the first film make it fairly dire to his survival while the manner in which the character arc works best for his sacrifice is to parallel it with his own climb back from the edge. Well, Netflix needs a sequel so Tyler Rake, played with hulking anti-heroism by Chris Hemsworth doing his best stone face, miraculously survives. Thus, the first portion of Extraction 2 is pinned on his recovery, punctuated by one of those 80s action film montages of him pushing rocks to get ready for the next mission. 


Already, Extraction 2 has leaped from military action flick grounded in its grit to 80s superhero levels of heroism. Rake is immediately back in the saddle because his ex-wife’s sister and her kids are being held hostage in a Georgian prison by some bad dudes. 


Who are these bad dudes? The film certainly gives us a lot of exposition telling us these are bad dudes, but Rake’s miracle survival and insane recovery time say all we need to know about the baddies - which are two words: who cares. If he’s blasting down helicopters with machine guns, fire-punching prisoners in a riot, or leaping off of a roof to save his comrades, then the baddies will get what they deserve. This film is so old school in some of its action concepts, it even goes as far as to essentially make the tools of a gym a death trap for terrorists. It is borderline hilarious. 


The film’s narrative is thinly threaded and Extraction 2 does not have any issues with that. Sure, there might be a bit of character growth for Rake when his ex shows up (a nice cameo to add to the film) but the film is hardly plot-driven. It adheres to its action formula blueprints with vigor and it only finds some interesting angles to take it by playing around with its structure. 


And its structure is a bit odd. Must Rake and the team plan and put together a massive Extraction plan to get out the hostages in a massive final act action set piece? Absolutely, but instead of having that rescue mission in the final act, the damn thing is in the first half of the film and then it spends the latter half of its runtime having our heroes wait for the baddie to come for them. It’s an interesting tact to split the film in that manner, but ultimately, it’s one that disservices it. When the massive rescue, which is essentially shot to look like a one-take action sequence, comes that early and is spectacularly well executed - where do you go from there? While the action of its finale is certainly great - Sam Hargrave knows how to do action no doubt - it never quite reaches that euphoria of fists and bullets of that titular Extraction set piece - even if we get a ton of gym kills and a nod to John Woo’s The Killer for its finale. 


Extraction 2 is highly entertaining, but some offbeat choices in its narrative structure and more unrealistic aspects of its story and characters tend to undermine the gravitas and human element that made its first entry such an impactful watch.


It’s almost a shame that Extraction 2 never got a theatrical release. The Netflix curse, I suppose. Even in the wake of so many incredible action films being released in 2023, Extraction 2 is a film desperate to be seen on the biggest screen possible for its increased sense of scope over its predecessor. Not that it contains the big razzle-dazzle of stunts and neon-soaked worlds of John Wick: Chapter 4 or the Marvel spectacle of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, but there’s a fun New Bourne scale to this sequel that would be elevated by theatrical sound and crowd reactions. It’s gorgeously shot, making use of its snowy climate, and it moves like a jaguar on the prowl, but this film might have been even better with the right platform. 


Written By Matt Malpica Reifschneider

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