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Extraction 2 review: The grimmest action franchise around

Extraction 2 is as bone-crunchingly relentless as the first film—but there's a numbing sameness to the mayhem

Chris Hemsworth in 'Extraction 2'. Image via AP
Chris Hemsworth in 'Extraction 2'. Image via AP

Sam Hargrave's Extraction wasn’t the first major action film to release online instead of in theatres. But it might be the first to become a big streaming hit and be adopted by the genre’s fans. The action was fast, brutal, pretty much wall to wall. There was that uninterrupted 12-minute action sequence. Chris Hemsworth was a mighty battering ram in the lead. And it flew in the face of Hollywood’s prevailing wisdom regarding the kind of action films that did well—it was pure carnage, no wisecracks.  

Tyler Rake (Hemsworth) appears to die at the end of the first film. But if we’ve learnt anything from years of self-regenerating action franchises, a character’s chances of survival are greatly improved if they’re fatally shot and fall from a great height into a body of water. Extraction 2, also directed by Hargrave, thus begins with a comatose Rake airlifted out of Dhaka, resuscitated, rehabilitated and deposited in a cottage in the icy middle of nowhere (in, like, a nice way). Like most retirees, he watches rugby on TV, does some ice fishing, looks at old letters. Just when the prospect of watching Chris Hemsworth do nothing for an extended period started to send chills down my spine, a tall handsome unnamed man—let’s call him Idris—shows up.

Idris has a new mission for Rake: extract your ex-wife’s sister, Ketevan (Tinatin Dalakishvili), and her two children from a Georgian prison. Mind her psychotic incarcerated gangster husband, Davit (Tornike Bziava). Watch out for his brother, Zurab (Tornike Gogrichiani), an even scarier gangster with an army of trained killers, once you’re out. Rake just sighs and starts exercising. Next thing you know, he’s in the prison, ushering Mia and the kids to safety. There’s about a minute of quiet and then all hell breaks loose.

The first film’s reputation was largely built on the long unbroken extraction sequence, so there was no way the sequel wasn’t going to try and one-up it. So we get 21 minutes of Rake killing dozens of inmates on his way out of prison, followed by a breathless car chase, culminating in an almighty train wreck, all in one (stitched) shot. It’s relentless, and exceptionally gnarly—headshots are the kindest way to go, the worst might be getting your face smashed it with dumbbells. 

As with the first film, I made my way through Extraction 2 duly impressed by the planning and execution but feeling bereft of joy. The unsmiling, unending ferocity is tough to fault on a technical level, but there’s no thrill because it’s all the same. Unlike, say, the Raid films, which are equally grueling but introduce new opponents and fighting styles and visual ideas every few scenes, everyone in Extraction 2 resembles and fights like black ops soldiers. Of the four or five mini-sequences that make up the extraction, I liked the free-for-all jailhouse brawl for its sheer chaos. But I still prefer the prison riot in The Raid 2 because it literally messes up the playing field, Iko Uwais having to squelch through mud while fighting for his life. Rake uses everything in sight as a weapon—though it falls to Zurab to use an actual rake—but the environments don’t make an impression (the ancient church at the end could be any old building). And though the third world sepia filter of Extraction has been shelved, there are no memorable shots here, only efficient ones. 

It's amusing how Rake protecting a complete stranger is much the same as Rake protecting family—zero sentiment, total focus on the task at hand. The film gives him a tragic backstory, but it’s a little bouquet of action film clichés: one rose for sick kid, one rose for heroic absent dad. Hemsworth is a physical marvel, but rather a bore as the monosyllabic assassin who alternates between ‘danger, kill’ and ‘safety, mope’. Thankfully, this time around there’s more of Golshifteh Farahani and Adam Bessa as Rake’s teammates; Bessa, coming off a searing lead turn in the Tunisian film Harka (2022), is particularly sympathetic.

Hargrave and writer Joe Russo have no use for Hemsworth’s comic timing; one gets the feeling the film considers humour beneath it. Like the first film, this should appeal to action fans who’d rather have their senses pummeled than their hearts lifted. But there’s more cinematic propulsion in the five seconds Rina Sawayama leaps into action in John Wick 4 than the entirety of Extraction 2.

Extraction 2 is on Netflix. 


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