Why a formulaic action flick became Netflix's biggest movie ever

Extraction feels like the perfect coronavirus antidote

Chris Hemsworth.
(Image credit: Illustrated | Netflix, iStock)

Extraction, Netflix's latest foray into blockbuster filmmaking, opens with a bloodied, heavily armed Chris Hemsworth in a shootout on a sunstruck, gridlocked bridge. He gets hit, crumples, and, as he stares dully toward us, we see what's in his mind: a gauzy remembrance of some brighter, easier past. The film then moves, with great portent, back in time, to TWO DAYS AGO. The next hour and 40 minutes shows how he got to that spot, on that bridge, covered in bruises and grime.

If you've ever seen an action movie, you can guess the rough outlines of the journey. Hemsworth's Tyler Rake is a mercenary with a troubled past (have you ever met a carefree mercenary?) hired to rescue a kidnapped teenager from a drug lord's army in the heart of Dhaka, Bangladesh. Extraction traffics in nearly every known action trope, from the old and regrettable (Rake is the white savior in a sweaty foreign land, à la Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom) to the new and bracing (he kills, according to one invaluable tally, 183 men in one bravura, John Wick-style scene). But there are no secret societies here, as in the Wick films; unlike Mad Max: Fury Road, there is certainly no feminist twist (in fact, there are barely any women at all). Aside from one scene, not for the faint of eyeball, in which a garden rake is used as a murder weapon, there's not much invention here. But the movie — directed by former stunt coordinator Sam Hargrave from a script by Joe Russo, half of Marvel's Russo brothers — knows we've seen enough such films to fill in the blanks ourselves. Extraction is nothing but chassis, but it's sturdy enough to run.

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