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'Extraction' review: Chris Hemsworth action film is smart, loads of fun

Rudhraksh Jaiswal (left) and Chris Hemsworth in Netflix's

Rudhraksh Jaiswal (left) and Chris Hemsworth in Netflix's "Extraction." Credit: NETFLIX/Jasin Boland

MOVIE "Extraction"

WHEN|WHERE Streaming on Netflix

WHAT IT'S ABOUT Chris Hemsworth takes a break from the Marvel Cinematic Universe and stars in this action movie as mercenary Tyler Rake, a tortured loner type that will be very familiar to fans of the genre. He is hired to free the kidnapped son Ovi (Rudhraksh Jaiswal) of an Indian drug kingpin from the clutches of his Bangladeshi kingpin counterpart Amir Asif (Priyanshu Painyuli).

That leads to one intense chase scene after another as Tyler toils to extricate Ovi from the enormous capital city of Dhaka, where it seems as if everyone with a gun is after them. It's one of the most archetypal plots imaginable, familiar from movies ranging from "Man on Fire" to seemingly half of Liam Neeson's filmography.

MY SAY There is nothing surprising or illuminating about "Extraction," which is now streaming on Netflix and marks the directorial debut of frequent Marvel stunt coordinator Sam Hargrave. But it is loads of fun and smart about the way it delivers that entertainment.

It's accomplished work by Hargrave, working from a screenplay by Joe Russo (yes, one of the Russo brothers responsible for helming two "Captain America" and two "Avengers" movies), who adapts the comic "Ciudad," which he wrote with several others.

Hargrave understands how to achieve the right mix of seriousness — the score swells, Hemsworth grows teary-eyed recounting his troubled past, the novelist Paulo Coelho is quoted — and silliness: Hemsworth's name is "Rake" and he kills a guy with a rake.

The star clearly understands that he's not really playing a character here, but a hardened abstraction. He fully embraces exactly what Tyler Rake should be, and gets the difficult balancing act required in maintaining a charismatic screen presence while being shot at or chased consistently and having only a modicum of back story to work with.

Hemsworth's natural screen presence allows him to pull off the audacious way the movie introduces the character — he hands a friend a beer, leaps off a cliff that's about 100 feet in the air and sits deep underwater with his legs crossed, just reflecting, one supposes. Patrick Swayze would be proud.

The action scenes are assembled with an eye for coherence and forward motion, resisting the familiar urge to cut them into smithereens. It's possible to clearly make sense of what is happening and where, and a lot of suspense is generated by the fact that there's a consistent visual logic to the proceedings.

That approach allows Hargrave to avoid another common tendency that has blighted action pictures lately: in the scramble to make movies that are bigger and more sprawling than the last, even some of the most beloved series (i.e. "Mission: Impossible") have taken a turn far away from realism and toward cartoonish stunts in recent installments.

There are no Tom Cruise-level adrenaline rush set pieces here; Hemsworth and Jaiswal might leap across buildings or jump out of a zooming vehicle, but the movie rarely turns its back on real world logic.

It's illustrative of an important principle in crafting successful escapist entertainment: you don't have to one-up your predecessors. Sometimes, it's enough to simply replicate what made them successful. 

BOTTOM LINE This is a consistently entertaining action movie that delivers the exact goods you'd hope it would from beginning to end, which is a harder thing to achieve than it might seem.

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