Precisely 35 minutes into “Extraction,” a bullet-spitting he-man movie premiering on Netflix, there’s a single-take chase sequence that’s practically state of the art. The Special Forces hero played by Chris Hemsworth has to get his charge, a kidnapped teenage boy he has just rescued, from one side of Dhaka, Bangladesh, to the other, and all that stands in his way are the city’s police force, the national army, a squadron of street kids with machetes, and one unstoppable killing machine with ambiguous motives. For 12 jaw-dropping minutes, the camera perches on Hemsworth’s shoulder as he rampages through car crashes, gun battles, hand-to-hand combat, down alleys, through windows, over balconies. The illusion of one continuous shot — the sharp-eyed will notice digital splicing here and there — is impressive and impressively exhausting. As believable narrative, the scene’s preposterous. As pure movie kinesis, it’s a trip.
And that’s about the best that can be said for “Extraction,” a meat-and-potatoes action movie that manages to extract the charisma from one of our most likable sides of beef. Hemsworth, an Australian actor with a confident grin and a surprisingly balletic sense of timing, has been a delight as the star of the “Thor” superhero movies — and if you never saw Ron Howard’s 2014 race-car movie, “Rush,” proceed immediately thereto — but here he’s just Rambo v 9.0. His character, Tyler Rake (!), is a mercenary for a top-secret black-ops squad who’s grieving over a family tragedy. He’s existentially tired of killin’ but still pulls it together to pile up a body count of literal hundreds by the end credits, all of whom are conveniently anonymous and brown.
Rake — who we first meet meditating underwater after a 100-foot dive off a cliff — is pulled back into action after Ovi (Rudhraksh Jaiswal), the son of an imprisoned Dhaka strongman (Pankaj Tripathi), is taken by a silky drug-dealing rival (Priyanshu Painyuli). Through his right-hand man, Saju (Randeep Hooda), the strongman agrees to pay the tactical team led by Nic (Golshifteh Farahani) to extract the boy, using Tyler as a rock-‘em-sock-‘em frontman, but things go south quickly, leading to that chase sequence and several surprisingly gruesome narrative switchbacks.
Adapted (loosely) from a 2014 graphic novel, “Extraction” comes from Agbo Films, a boutique studio run by the Russo brothers, Joe and Anthony, who directed the most recent “Avengers” blockbusters (thus Hemsworth’s participation). Joe Russo wrote the script, and directing duties have been handed to Sam Hargrave, a second unit director and stunt coordinator making his debut in the big chair. Hargrave’s resume explains the film’s emphasis on physical logistics, with action sequences that are as technically challenging and as tightly choreographed as any classic-era musical number, if rather more brutal. Living up to his name, Tyler dispatches one unlucky extra with an actual rake through the eyeballs.
“Extraction” is made with more professionalism than flair, let alone any sort of personal stamp, and its only vaguely original touches are the friendship that develops between the mercenary and his sensitive charge; the sympathy extended to Saju, who’s both nemesis and ally; and the participation of Farahani, a stunningly elegant Iranian actress perhaps best known to American audiences as Adam Driver’s fluky wife in Jim Jarmusch’s “Paterson” (2016). David Harbour, the sheriff in TV’s “Stranger Things,” also pops up as a former colleague of Tyler’s, and you know how that usually goes. Everyone else in the movie is a Bangladeshi extra and therefore considered expendable. Let’s hope they got paid by the bullet.
Directed by Sam Hargrave. Written by Joe Russo, based on a graphic novel by Ande Parks, Joe Russo, Anthony Russo, and Fernando Leon Gonzalez. Starring Chris Hemsworth, Rudhraksh Jaiswal, Golshifteh Farahani, David Harbour. Available on Netflix. 116 minutes. R (strong bloody violence throughout, language, brief drug use)