Extraction Review: What can be salvaged from Netflix’s latest action-packed feature?

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In Extraction, ex-Asgardian Chris Hemsworth plays a stoic Australian mercenary, Tyler Rake, flung into a world of crime. Rake’s recruitment is directed by handler Nik (Golshifteh Farahani) and also features warring Indian and Bangladeshi drug kingpins Ovi Mahajan Sr. and Amir Asif (Pankaj Tripathi and Priyanshu Painyuli). Fan favourite, Netflix’s own Stranger Things’s David Harbour, briefly makes an appearance as Gaspar to help Rake extract the ransomed Ovi Mahajan Jr. held by Amir Asif.

Netflix recently premiered Extraction to its streaming subscribers to worldwide commercial success; as Hemsworth posted on his Instagram, Extraction attracted an ‘estimated 90 million households getting in on the action in the first 4 weeks.’ Joe Russo has also recently snapped up a deal to write a follow-up sequel.

Extraction’s video game violence is often akin to that of John Wick or Jason Bourne and undoubtedly the main positive salvaged from Extraction is the film’s well-oiled choreography. Production input from frequent Marvel collaborators the Russo brothers, Hemsworth, and director and previous Marvel stunt coordinator, Sam Hargrave mesh together nicely.

Extraction’s longer fight sequences resemble Paul Greengrass’ The Bourne Ultimatum level of action-thriller and critic Mark Kermode even compared the sparsely edited car chase to The French Connection.

However, despite the odd nail-biting sequences, Extraction doesn’t really hold up: Kermode aptly described the characters as ‘thumbnail’. Extraction does take a look at the gritty violence which throws kids into a life of crime, but never achieves the same depths as Fernando Meirelles’s City of God or Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire.

Once you take away the special effects, glaring violence and explosions, Extraction critics will likely tap into the unfortunate ‘white saviour’ perspective, as the film’s narrative ultimately fixates around a white man who slaughters a lot of innocent Bangladeshi officers simply because he can.

The sum of Bangladesh’s parts is portrayed as a murky, seedy, criminal underbelly and wholeheartedly negative. Many on Twitter were quick to expose Netflix and Hollywood for overusing sepia colour grading to represent developing countries. Extraction fosters a dirty aesthetic, which Netflix’s own YouTube channel acknowledged as ‘set within the nasty world of arms dealers and drug traffickers’.

This vision of Bangladesh evokes European colonisers’ marginalisation of people of colour, dominant in narratives moulded by ‘civilised’ whites who purportedly benefitted the native community via the purging it of its so-called evils. There is a colonialist tradition that lurks within action films often set in the rainforest where the exoticized natives are represented as inherently mysterious, evil, and corrupt needing to be rescued or defeated by the pure white man. Examples of “white man in the jungle” films range from the likes of Indiana Jones to the more recent problematic The Legend of Tarzan. Although Extraction is set within the confines of a city, it still inherits these unfortunate tropes.

Despite its obvious capacity to thrill with frenzied violence, Extraction’s surface-level narrative and characterisation fail to rescue it from its 2/5 rating, due largely to its potential to revisit abhorrent colonial accounts.

Image Credit: Netflix