Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Cinema in Quarantine: Extraction

Finally, the perfect remedy for my low blood pressure! I found this film quite enjoyable. And by enjoyable, I mean the same way something like Scarface or Game of Thrones is enjoyable in that it was sad, disturbing, and murderous but still a good time. This is a movie for a specific kind of action fan, namely the strong-stomached kind that's okay with dark narratives; it's a violent film, and not the super hero kind. The R rating is well-earned---the situations are very visceral and there are kids are involved---you will grimace and cringe. A lot. There's not a lot of happiness or personality to be found because the story is overall hopeless and negative. That said, film is put together well, moves at a fast pace, and shows Hemsworth as badass as he's ever been.

We meet Tyler Rake (Chris Hemsworth) on a bridge, battered and bloody, in the middle of a shootout with enemies all around him. As he stumbles and looks off into space, we get a flashback of a little boy at a beach suggesting a previous loss or memory of happier times. It becomes clear, after some exposition, forward motion, and more flashbacks, that we've come in at the end of the story; whatever Tyler got himself into with the shooting and the bloodiness will end on that bridge.

Tyler is a for-hire mercenary whose job is to locate and extract the son of an incarcerated Indian crime boss from another crime boss in Dhaka, Bangladesh. The mission itself is not without challenges, but Tyler makes fast work of it, disposing of the team of enemy operatives (but leaving a child within their midst unharmed) and leaving a trail of bodies and exploded machinery behind in every scene. Ovi (Rudhraksh Jaiswal), the fourteen-year-old son in question, is a kind and seemingly trusting young man who initially balks at Tyler's methods but comes to trust and depend on Tyler as the two make way through Dhaka. It doesn't take long for the first crime boss to realize Ovi's been taken, and thus every street, every truck, and every man in the city becomes a potential trap or assassin on the lookout for the pair, led secretively by the imprisoned crime bosses's right hand man and Ovi's former caretaker, Saju (Randeep Hooda), a special ops soldier charged with the responsibility of getting Ovi back.

The action sequences (car chases, stunts, fight choreography, and explosions) take center stage in terms of technical skill, and there are beautiful moments in cinematography: overhead shots of the close-quartered building tops of Dhaka, Ovi, alone in his house at the piano, and the images of Tyler on the bridge at sunset, but another likely under-appreciated aspect to the emotion of the film is the music. Scored by Henry Jackman and Alex Belcher, the accompanying orchestral selections do a great job of counteracting all the action with melancholy cello and piano instrumentals throughout the film. This element, together with Tyler's flashbacks of what we later learn are of his son, keep us from getting lost in too many gun or knife fights or in the darkness of what's really happening in the lives of the population of young boys in this story.

The film takes a chance in informing us about the unpleasantness of life for both rich and poor in these spaces. Ovi has grown up in privilege but has only a piano with which to communicate; the boys working on the streets of Dhaka work to win the pride and protection of a drug lord who would just as soon toss them over a rooftop. Crime and poverty have created a generation of young boys who long for father figures---lucky for us, Ovi and Tyler seem to be seeking the same thing (watch all the way to the end and pay attention). Would that Tyler could do more for the street boys than simply not kill them, but such is another story altogether.

Extraction is directed by Sam Hargrave, written by Joe Russo (based on his graphic novel "Ciudad") and is available now on Netflix. Extraction runs 1 hour, 56 minutes and is rated R for for strong bloody violence throughout, language and brief drug use.