Extraction 2 review: rinse and repeat, warts and all

Chris Hemsworth-led Netflix sequel is bigger and more personal—but it fails to be any better.

Akhil Arora, a member of the Film Critics Guild and a Rotten Tomatoes-certified film critic

Chris Hemsworth as Tyler Rake in Extraction 2
Chris Hemsworth as Tyler Rake in Extraction 2 // Photo: Jasin Boland/Netflix

Three years and two months ago, when most of us had nothing much to do other than sanitise everything in sight and peruse daily case numbers during the first COVID-19 lockdown, Netflix dropped the Dhaka-set action thriller Extraction. That, in combination with the star wattage of Chris Hemsworth—riding the then-coattails of the mega success of Avengers: Endgame—helped the film’s cause, with nearly a hundred million subscribers tuning in during the first four weeks after release. Sure, Netflix’s barometer of measurement was shoddy but converted into the new metric of million hours watched, Extraction remains the seventh most watched original film on Netflix. All that is a roundabout way of saving that Extraction delivered. With aplomb.

The all-but-guaranteed sequel Extraction 2—stylised onscreen as ExtractIIon and arriving Friday on Netflix—doesn’t have those built-in advantages. The world is more or less back to normal; we aren’t cooped up in front of our screens anymore (unless we choose to be). And Hemsworth is coming off the back of a critical Marvel failure, Thor: Love and Thunder, something he himself admitted during the Extraction 2 press tour, labelling it “too silly” for its own good. Hence, the sequel—featuring the returning talents of stunt coordinator-turned-director Sam Hargrave, and writer Joe Russo who’s one half of Endgame’s directing duo—must stand on its own two feet. (Well, apart from the fact that a lot of Netflix subscribers have heard of and watched the original.)

Extraction 2 has a 21-minute long take. Well, sort of

In a bid to improve and expand upon the formula, Extraction 2 features a twist: it wraps up the titular mission less than halfway through the movie. Now what? (Skip this paragraph if you’re averse to spoilers on a film’s structure.) Using a bit of convoluted logic and an easily-influenced teenager, the sequel barrels through a three-act of action set-pieces. The extraction is followed by ‘the revenge’ and ultimately ‘the duel’. The first of these is the most impressive—on a visual and execution level—thanks to a series of long takes that are digitally stretched together to resemble a 21-minute continuous shot. What starts off as a prison break turns into a riot, followed by a high-speed car chase, a walk on foot, and an extended train sequence that involves explosions, helicopters, and a derailment.

Golshifteh Farahani as Nik Khan and Chris Hemsworth as Tyler Rake in Extraction 2
Golshifteh Farahani as Nik Khan and Chris Hemsworth as Tyler Rake in Extraction 2 // Photo: Jasin Boland/Netflix

In between all that action, the 110-minute Extraction sequel finds time to expand on Tyler Rake’s (Hemsworth) backstory. Briefly hinted at in the original through his early behaviour and death-wish choices, Extraction 2 dives into it a lot more. The impact is debatable. Olga Kurylenko (Quantum of Solace) is brought in as the ex-wife Mia, Golshifteh Farahani’s Nik Khan—wasted in the original—is upgraded to a more prominent role and someone Tyler cares about personally and professionally, and the mission itself is a lot more personal, pushing Tyler to do things he normally wouldn’t bother with. And while Indian stars stood in for Bangladeshi characters last time around, Georgian actors are brought in to play Georgians and given much meatier roles.

The plot of Extraction 2

Opening a little before where its predecessor left off, Extraction 2 sort of retcons the ending of the first film. After falling into Dhaka’s city-splitting Buriganga River, Tyler washes ashore a few miles off and is airlifted to Dubai for treatment. I’m sorry, that’s a five-hour flight—wouldn’t he die on the way? Tyler wishes that would’ve happened, for he has little desire to live. (He lost a kid, if you’ll recall.) Instead, he spends nearly nine months recuperating in the hospital, with Nik watching over him. Having more or less forgotten her last time around, Extraction 2 tries hard to course correct and develop something akin to a bond between Nik and Tyler.

More importantly, given this new timeline, it’s unclear how he goes to see Ovi—the boy he rescued—in Mumbai eight months later, as Extraction implied. Surely the boy wasn’t hallucinating? This mess is borne out of the cop-out ending of the original. While Hargrave initially wanted Tyler to die, he was convinced otherwise by the reaction of test audiences, half of whom preferred that the black ops mercenary live on. Hence the ambiguous last shot with a blurred-out Hemsworth in the background. Of course, Russo and Netflix preferred that one too, as it allows for the existence of this sequel and their grander plans of an Extraction cinematic universe (ugh).

Tornike Gogrichiani as Zurab Radiani in Extraction 2
Tornike Gogrichiani as Zurab Radiani in Extraction 2 // Photo: Jasin Boland/Netflix

Extraction 2 never addresses any of it—it’s more concerned with throwing Tyler into another mission to justify the film’s title. That involves the politically-influential Georgian gangster duo Zurab and Davit Radiani (Tornike Gogrichiani and Tornike Bziava); the latter is in prison because he killed an American DEA agent. Wanting to keep a close eye on his family—wife Ketevan (Tinatin Dalakishvili) and the two kids, the elder Sandro (Andro Japaridze) and the younger Nina (Mariami and Marta Kovziashvili)—he’s put them in prison too. Turns out, Ketevan is Mia’s sister, which gives Tyler a reason to fight back from the brink of despair. And a nice li’l montage later, he’s fit to do it all over again.

Maddening, exhausting, and entirely self-serious

What follows is a maddening, exhausting, and entirely self-serious one-shot. Tyler uses guns, knives, and fists to keep the Radianis alive. A lot of it is close-quarter fighting, so it’s clear that Hemsworth is doing much of it himself (again). Given the tight confines, the camera follows in the footsteps of the characters, either following from behind or routinely spinning in front. As the escape spills into the prison yard overflown by rioting inmates and the camera gains a bit of distance, the action takes on an altogether chaotic facet. As Tyler is whacked or knocked over, we are at times beaten down with him. The sound design does the same. I couldn’t tell if there were any artificial stitches during the prison riot sequence, which makes its staging, choreography, and execution wholly impressive.

But that’s much easier to spot once the car chase begins. (The outskirts of Prague stand in for Georgia here, just as Ahmedabad stood in for Dhaka in the original.) The camera movement, speed, and framing give away the CGI-ness of it. But Extraction 2 always has enough happening on screen, ensuring there’s a car flip, an explosion, or some gnarly death to distract you from the cuts. That actually links to my one complaint, which is that the director Hargrave loves chaos. A little too much. And to achieve it, he pushes for not just variety, but non-stop fare. (I can’t help but feel the long-take nature of it contributed to this approach.) There are no pauses, no moment to take in what’s washing over you. Before you know it, everything is unexpectedly over.

The bigger problem with the Extraction movies

But more crucially, Extraction 2 peaks early. For its second act, the Netflix film delivers a mini war in Vienna, replete with a machine gun-toting helicopter and an endless number of rocket launchers. Set aside the universe-breaking logic of it all—good luck casually invading Austria’s airspace—the sequence opts for scale over sensibility. “Look, we’ve helicopters and RPGs! A fight on a glass surface on the outside of a very tall building! Are you impressed?” That said, even when the action gets too chaotic or far-fetched, it remains easy to follow. Hargrave knows how to stage, edit, and keep things coherent.

But that complaint links to the bigger problem with the Extraction films. They are more interested in wowing you with intensity and effort. “Look at how much work this sequence must have taken.” (At the same time, the third sequence is not very impressive—it not only has very little to it, but it’s also plot-armour heavy.) It’s a shame the scripts don’t put nearly enough into making us care about the characters and what’s happening to them. Russo cares more about expanding his world and building out the ensemble, which is how you explain the bigger role for Farahani and the introductions of Kurylenko, and Idris Elba as a new case manager of sorts who serves as mere exposition machine and deus ex machina. (He refuses to provide a name, but the Extraction 2 credits identify him as Alcott.)

This is annoyingly the raison d’être for the Russo brothers—Joe and his brother Anthony always work in tandem—to be involved in projects these days. They view any film as part of something potentially larger and always keep one eye on how to make franchises out of everything. Hargrave has spoken about his desire for an Extraction trilogy, but the Russos are already in the business of something bigger. And between this, Citadel, and The Gray Man, they are juggling so many cinematic pies that they wouldn’t even blink if one of them fell flat on the floor.

Extraction 2 released on June 16 on Netflix worldwide.

Akhil Arora