Chris Hemsworth as Tyler Rake in Extraction on NetflixSource: Netflix

Chris Hemsworth is not Thor. That's a sentence that has to be written in virtually every movie he's in from now until the end of time (OK, or Ragnarok, whichever comes first.) It's lazy, I know. Hemsworth is an actor. Thor is a character. But he's that kind of actor and Thor is that kind of character in which it can become difficult to separate the two.

Complicating factors just a bit in Netflix's Extraction is that the Russo brothers also are involved. The film was written by Joe Russo. It's executive-produced by Joe and brother Anthony. The Russo Brothers™️. And said brothers are, of course, known for directing four superhero films — Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Captain America: Civil War, Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame.

So it's hard to separate Hemsworth from Thor. And it's hard to separate the Russo brothers from Thor. But Thor has nothing to do with Extraction. And he doesn't really need to.

Netflix original

Extraction

3.5 out of 5

It's John Wick in India, but with less purpose.

Extraction (116 minutes) has enough action and gun-fu to rival any of the John Wick flicks. It's a fun, surprisingly sad watch. It's just that it couldn't quite go deep enough into its troubled characters.

Uh oh. There's something wrong with Thor. Damn it, with Tyler. Tyler Rake. Like the gardening tool. He just took a round in the back, and it for someone who presume is going to spend the next two hours not dying — and, in fact, racking up quite the body count, that's an interesting way to open a movie. So we have some idea how it's going to end. It's just a matter of how we're going to get there.

Cut to a cliff somewhere. He's doing that thing you do where you want to seem unconscious, and you want everyone to see that you've all but tuned out everything, and you want them to ask what's wrong, because really all you want to talk about what's wrong because deep down inside something just isn't right. But also for exposition. Thor — Tyler! — has a literal "hold my beer" moment (you've gotta love that), then runs right off the cliff his friend chickened out on, pencilling straight into the water. And he doesn't immediately surface. Did he just kill himself? Of course not. He's now meditating on the bottom.

Because he's deep.

The premise of Extraction is simple enough. Ovi, the son of an imprisoned Indian drug lord, is kidnapped by a rival drug lord, and Ovi Sr. wants the kid freed. So he has his close-knit enforcer, Saju — who was supposed to keep the kid safe — "steal him back." Ransom money isn't going to get this done. But you know what will? Thor. Tyler. Who, it appears, actually is enjoying more than the occasional cliff-side beer — and pills of some sort — but somehow is top shape and is the only person who can get this sort of thing done.

Even though Tyler apparently is the only person who can get this sort of thing done — and as we quickly learn via Saju's badassery, he's really not — he's got a team behind him, led by Nik Khan (the stunning Golshifteh Farahani, and one of a scant few women with speaking parts in this flick). Tyler may be a poor, drunken chicken farmer who can still fight his way into and out of anywhere, but you quickly get the sense that she's a badass in her own right. (Visiting Tyler via helicopter definitely helps that impression.) She knows him well, and coordinates everything that doesn't involve Tyler directly shooting someone through the face.

The extraction itself is simple enough — it's really the exfiltration that's hard. (It's also a less-sexy movie title, of course.) Tyler has to contend with the manhunt led by the local police — and a seemingly endless supply of young mercs, some of whom are barely old enough to heft a rifle. But Saju also is still on his tail. They're two sides of the same coin, of course. They don't know each other, but they know each other. Saju likely has his own demons, but it's his wife and child at home that burn in his brain, not distant memories that torment Tyler.

The action in Extraction absolutely makes up for what the character development lacks.

Tyler's team tells him to ditch the kid, especially since whomever hired them didn't come through with the money. They expected Tyler to rescue Ovi, but they also expected Saju to kill Tyler and take the kid. But Tyler refuses to leave Ovi. For someone who supposedly doesn't care and is in this for the money, he sure care a lot about this kid. Someone else's kid.

That part of Tyler's backstory is all but nonexistent. Blink and you'll miss it. (In fact, I did the first time, and it's a devil to go back and find.) And it's definitely a trope in this genre — wife and kid are gone (the former just ... gone, and the latter dead of lymphoma at age 6), part of the soul is missing, and he's trying to fill it with death and destruction and ultimately some kind of redemption. We've heard this story before. Lots, really.

The real star of Extraction, then, could lie elsewhere than Hemsworth, or Saju's Randeep Hooda, or Nik, or even the young Farhad (Suraj Rikame). It'd argue there are three real stars.

First is the locations, in Ahmedabad and Mumbai, India, and Thailand, and in Bangladesh. The density and disparity of are weapons unto themselves. At time defensive, at times offensive. And it's the sort of thing that those of us who live in the West can barely understand.

Second would be younger actors. Their parts in the action scenes are mostly limited, for obvious reasons. But Ovi's interactions with Tyler, as well as some of the even-younger gangsters, offer a bit of levity while striking home just how desperate life can be in this part of the world, even for someone as well off as Ovi. And Ovi's Rudhraksh Jaiswal holds his own alongside Hemsworth, peppering him with sleepy questions that get surprisingly personal answers considering that, again, Tyler was supposed to be in this for the money.

And third would the action itself. It's harder and harder to make gun battles interesting. Extraction has a fun blend of traditional military-type action, with a bit of gun-fu (think The Matrix or John Wick). But it's when the guns click empty that the filler action really catches your attention. It's what Tyler's able to do to someone without bullets that makes you rewind. Some of it almost looks like the sort of thing you'd see in a film that's trying to hard to make a 3D version watchable, and it's definitely over the top. But it's still just fun. As is the ridiculous 11-minute-long "single-take" chase in the middle of the film. The cut points are obvious if you know what to look for, but the end result is still compelling to watch — and you have to wonder just how crazy the camera operators must have been.

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention David Harbour's section, too. His Gaspar is compelling as a compatriot who happens to be living the good life in Dhaka, but also as an obvious turncoat. Gaspar thinks Ovi has no chance, being the son of a drug lord. He knows how this story ends, that they should kill Ovi and collect the $10 million bounty to return him to his captors and go back to their lives. Gaspar's play is obvious. Ovi's, however, is not.

The final act keeps things moving along. Tyler needs Saju's help if they want to make it out of the city — and even then it's definitely not guaranteed. Nik and a new team (considering Tyler's supposedly the only person who could rescue Ovi, they sure have no problem replacing his comrades) are ready to aide in the final battle. Only, we know what happens, right? Tyler ultimately takes a round even he couldn't escape.

Ovi goes back to his old life. School. Friends. Swimming and diving. He came to trust Tyler, just as he trusted Saju. Now, both are gone. You can see Ovi trying to figure out what happens next as he climbs the diving platform in a picturesque pool. Like our first time meeting Tyler, he walks right off the edge and pencils straight in. No hesitation.

And when he surfaces ...

Netflix original

Extraction

3.5 out of 5

It's John Wick in India, but with less purpose.

Extraction (116 minutes) has enough action and gun-fu to rival any of the John Wick flicks. It's a fun, surprisingly sad watch. It's just that it couldn't quite go deep enough into its troubled characters.