Friday, June 16, 2023

Extraction 2 is a bigger, bolder, but not necessarily better movie than the first one, according to Chris Hemsworth's Netflix sequel


Review of Extraction 2: Despite Chris Hemsworth and Golshifteh Farahani's committed performances, director Sam Hargrave ups the ante when it comes to staging elaborately choreographed action. However, the movie can't help but feel a little repetitive.

Even though it has only been three years since the first Extraction movie was released on Netflix in April 2020, a lot has changed since then. For example, a pandemic has come and gone (mostly), the streaming industry is now giving away free content, and Randeep Hooda and the Russo brothers have decided to burn their reputations with recent creative choices. However, there are some things that will never change, such as the unwritten rule that every Hollywood sequel must surpass the first film in every way or face being sent to a movie jail. The second Extraction, in which Chris Hemsworth's Tyler Rake makes a comeback, is a more expansive experience than the first, which was relatively sparse, but it isn't nearly as satisfying as most part twos.

Since the fearless mercenary had been shot in the neck on a Dhaka bridge when we last saw him, the film spends so little time bringing Rake back to life that nobody would have noticed if it skipped this necessary scene. However, his rescue sets up a long period of time in which Rake is forced to recuperate in a hospital in Dubai before being sent to live alone in an Austrian log cabin by his former partners in crime, Nik (Golshifteh Farahani) and Yaz (Adam Bessa). However, for a man like Rake, cheating death is meaningless if he isn't taunting the Grim Reaper to try him again. After spending several days fishing in the frozen lake outside of his cabin and watching sports with his pet chickens, a mysterious stranger pays him a visit and gives him the chance to get back in the ring.

This time, though, it's personal. Rake is tasked with rescuing his former sister-in-law, who is being held in a Georgian jail with their two children by her gangster husband. The script, written by Joe Russo, doesn't say how Rake didn't know that his ex-relative is married to a drug kingpin who has cult-like control over a small army. However, given that its sole objective is to locate the least complicated means by which Rake can transition between action sequences, how could you possibly expect it to do so?

Extraction 2 is more like the kind of Euro-thrillers that seemed to have become so popular in the middle of the 2000s, whereas the first Extraction was a fast-paced and extremely violent take on Western storytelling tropes. For example, the main antagonist in this movie reminded me a lot of the bad guy from Taken 2, not just because both of their motivations are from European countries that only seem to produce criminals in Hollywood movies. In Extraction 2, the villain Zurab, played by Tornike Gogrichiani, does not intend to dominate the entire world or commit mass genocide. He only has his own personal reasons for pursuing Rake like a Terminator.

However, Zurab appears after the film has already reached its zenith. The highlight of the sequel, like the first, is an action sequence that stops the movie and is stitched together to look like it was shot in one uncut take. It is absolutely stunning and, in many ways, more complex than the chase scene from the first movie. Rake enters the Georgian jail where his former sister-in-law is imprisoned, navigates a full-blown prison riot in the yard, jumps in a car for a thrilling highway chase, and then, Pathaan-style, catches a goods train while being followed by enemies in helicopters. Over the course of 20 thrilling minutes, Sam Hargrave, the film's director, is able to fully develop the style that he had so skillfully teased in the first film.

In the chaotic fight choreography, notice Hargrave's ability to frame masters, inserts, and close-ups. He also demonstrates his ability to stage coherent close-combat, vehicular action, and large-scale set-pieces. He will undoubtedly have a great career, but one hopes he can soon stage his own escape from the AGBO sweatshop because talented action directors have been enticed by franchise filmmaking in the past. Additionally, there are a few instances in Extraction 2 where you get the tiniest hint that Hargrave might also be heading in this direction. Even though that main sequence is thrilling, it lacks the raw brutality of the first movie and features a lot of (noticeable) CGI.

But there is a bigger issue at play here, and it has nothing to do with the scene itself but rather with where it is placed in the movie. It begins around the 30-minute mark, and even though it goes on for a while, there is still more than an hour of the movie left when it is over. Hargrave never achieves that level of excitement again, surprising no one. He could have tried an Athena and surprised the audience at the end with another, equally elaborate action sequence. Extraction 2's relatively restrained final showdown, on the other hand, cannot help but feel a little anticlimactic because there is no third act trump card here.

The fact that the first movie didn't reveal too much about Rake made it such a surprise, despite the fact that the plot and structure were pretty standard. You felt compelled to project your own anxieties onto him because he was such a blank slate, similar to John Wick. However, Extraction 2 doesn't leave much room for imagination. Rake seems to feel compelled to lead the characters and the audience in a particular direction for the majority of the movie.

Sadly, we were unable to locate any streaming deals for Extraction 2.

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