Extraction 2 Is a Strenuous Action-Movie Flex That’s Also a Lot of Fun

Movies Reviews Netflix
Extraction 2 Is a Strenuous Action-Movie Flex That’s Also a Lot of Fun

It used to be that making brawny, kind of stupid action movies was a hard-won career niche, achieved over multiple years by one-named superstars like Arnold or Sly, often followed by several more years of laboring to prove greater versatility (or not). Now musclebound invincibility is its own kind of versatility flex – a way for a sort-of action hero like Chris Hemsworth to prove that he can sweat, bleed, and kill to a greater degree than allowed by his most famous role as a Marvel superhero. Thor might be a silly-sounding name, but he’s got nothing on Tyler Rake, the taciturn man of action Hemsworth plays in the Extraction series, who suffers for his ass-kicking in a way that even the grittiest, most tortured incarnation of Thor would likely find puzzling.

There aren’t yet four Extraction movies to match the only MCU resident to reach quadrilogy status, but give it a little while. A cost-cutting streamer still needs big-ticket content, and Extraction 2 is nothing if not content, a relentless machine engineered by a relentless machine, built to propel Tyler through some very elaborate motions – starting with his resurrection. Not counting a blurred figure of ambiguity at the end of the first Extraction, Tyler was last seen dead in a river after saving the imperiled son of an Indian crime lord. Extraction 2 follows Tyler’s rescue, coma, awakening, physical rehabilitation, and retirement to a remote cabin, all of which happens with both painstaking slowness (in the world of the movie) and unintentional comedic swiftness (in terms of actual screen time).

His cabin time-out, somewhat more disciplined than Thor’s Endgame-era exile, is interrupted by a visit from a mystery man (Idris Elba), who is maneuvering around Tyler’s usual handler Nik (Golshifteh Farahani) to offer Tyler a new mission: Break – well, really burst – into a Georgian prison and retrieve the wife and children of a gangster, who has arranged for his family to stay under his thumb while he’s incarcerated. Tyler does some Stallone-style snow-training to get back into killing shape before heading into the breach with Nik and her brother Yaz (Adam Bessa).

It’s at this point that Extraction 2 performs another flex, designed to distinguish itself from the many bullet-spray, henchmen-slaughtering action movies it resembles: The prison rescue takes place over the course of a massive 21-minute action sequence, shot to resemble a single take. Though large swaths of this sequence are believably continuous, it was obviously not actually done in one, especially when the full planes/trains/automobiles breadth of the sequence reveals itself. It’s a gimmick, as much a stab (and shot, and punch, and ten more stabs) at credibility as Hemsworth’s burly-man physicality – a performance of strenuousness, sweating to show ’em how it’s done in a way that, say, the John Wick movies (which also sometimes use long takes, minus the look-at-me thirstiness) don’t need to bother with.

And yet: There’s no need to outsmart yourself from enjoying the relentless, still-impressive spectacle of Tyler Rake plowing through a prison riot, shooting it out with a helicopter, and at one point engaging in fisticuffs whilst literally (well, digitally) on fire. If the fake oner becomes more obviously computer-assisted as it leaves the prison and traverses several different vehicles, there’s also an almost Wicked playfulness as returning director Sam Hargrave (a longtime stunt coordinator) keeps swerving his way around, over, and through all of the self-imposed obstacles, whether human or computer-assisted. Adding to the fun is the physical work of supporting badasses Bessa and especially Farahani. Their more active roles in this sequel makes it feel less like a Hemsworth vanity workout; they also help to keep a three-ring circus of mayhem running, and worthy of the big-screen experience almost no one will have with it.

Extraction 2 makes a structural gamble by consolidating the majority of its action into two 20-minute sections: That first big setpiece, and then another, more traditionally cross-cut sequence featuring the heroes attempting to defend Ketevan (Tinatin Dalakishvili) and her kids from an office-tower assault somewhere in the Gunmetal Grey District of Vienna. 40-plus minutes, which is to say roughly 35 percent of the movie’s runtime, consists of exciting, impressively staged action, easy enough to follow that its forays into gory nastiness are never in doubt. The scrapes are satisfying close and many of the visual effects well-hidden. The sequel outdoes its predecessor in physical power, and also in sidestepping some of its dicier politics in favor of what reads as generically transcontinental bad guys.

This is not to say that the movie’s downtime drama (and more intimately violent climax), focusing on the conflicting loyalties of gangster’s son Sandro (Andro Jafaridze) and following up on Tyler’s guilt over his own departed child, is especially compelling. It’s just synthetically familiar connective tissue to make Extraction 2 seem more like a real movie. (In other words: Screenplay by Joe Russo.) Worse, bringing in Elba and longtime action gal Olga Kurylenko (as Tyler’s ex), only to have them show up and be recognized without doing much, feels like a move out of a later-period Stallone playbook: Get ready for The Netflixables! Two movies into this would-be saga, the A-list staffing and ambitious choreography are still being applied to well-worn throwback material infused with some additional contemporary grimness. But if Extraction 2 isn’t necessarily smarter than its predecessor, maybe it’s somewhat less stupid. Its self-conscious action craft puts a little bit of brain behind all that performative brawn.

Director: Sam Hargraves
Writer: Joe Russo
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Golshifteh Farahani, Adam Bessa, Tinatin Dalakishvili, Andro Jafaridze, Daniel Bernhardt, Olga Kurylenko, Idris Elba
Release Date: June 16, 2023 (Netflix)

Jesse Hassenger is associate movies editor at Paste. He also writes about movies and other pop-culture stuff for a bunch of outlets including Polygon, Inside Hook, Vulture, and SportsAlcohol.com, where he also has a podcast. Following @rockmarooned on Twitter is a great way to find out about what he’s watching or listening to, and which terrifying flavor of Mountain Dew he has most recently consumed.

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