2023, R, 123 mins.
Chris Hemsworth as Tyler Rake / Rudhraksh Jaiswal as Ovi Mahajan / Golshifteh Farahani as Nik Khan / Adam Bessa as Yaz / Justin Howell as Gio / Olga Kurylenko as Mia / Tinatin Dalakishvili as Ketevan / Tornike Bziava as David / Patrick Newall as SebDirected by Sam Hargrave / Written by Joe Russo
Netflix's EXTRACTION 2 features the new adventures of Tyler Rake (what an amazingly preposterous name), the ex-special forces soldier with the Australian Army that later became a mercenary for hire that very much appeared to be dead at the end of the 2020 franchise introductory installment.
But - wouldn't ya know it? - he did manage to survive the hellish ordeal of his last mission and engages in a very Rocky Balboa-esque training montage to hilariously recover very quickly from his near fatal wounds in order to take his next dangerous assignment.
I thought that the first EXTRACTION - written by Joe Russo and directed by former stuntman turned director Sam Hargrave - featured action sequences that deserved very worthy comparisons to anything in the JOHN WICK franchise, not to mention that star Chris Hemsworth (as Rake) brought ample amounts of steely eyed and teeth clenched presence to his role. The first entry was light on storytelling and featured a weak villain, but sustained itself on its mercilessly effective and exceptionally paced action.
EXTRACTION 2 is more of the same, but is considerably bigger in scope and genuinely ups the ante as far as bone bashing and blood spewing mayhem is concerned. You'll be even more dazzled by the superb stunt work and stunningly crisp choreography of this film's ample supply of pure carnage (with one sequence in particular - an uninterrupted 20-plus minute sequence that gives the makers of 1917 a run for their collective money). There's a relentlessness to this film and its antecedent that's commendable, and there's a legitimate attempt to expand upon the universe building of what's come before for more inevitable sequels to come. Where EXTRACTION 2 falls short (as did its predecessor) is the level of depth afforded to the characters and the world they inhabit. When it boils right down to it, Tyler Rake isn't really delineated well as a meaty hero of interest, and many of his supporting players are essentially action figure props masquerading as real flesh and blood people. But, make no mistake about it, Hargrave and company wholeheartedly deliver the real meat and potato elements that fans of the first are clamoring for, and to their credit, they manage to top much of what has come before.
Let's get back to Rake's unintentionally hilarious rehab, shall we? He was left for dead during EXTRACTION 2's climax, before which time he was trying to rescue a kidnapped son of an Indian drug lord that was being held in Dhaka, Bandladesh. He was so broken and battered throughout that film that survival logically seemed questionable, but in the early stages of EXTRACTION 2 we witness Rake now retired from mercenary work and trying to live a peaceful life in his secluded cabin in Austria. An unnamed man appears at his doorstep (played by Idris Elba, a little above this material, to be honest) to deliver a message from his ex-wife: Her sister and children are being held in a Georgian prison by her vicious drug dealer (another one!) husband, Davit (Tornike Bziava). This drug lord works with his sibling, Zurab (Tornike Gogrichiani), who's even more fanatically unstable and deadly in running their family's criminal empire. Rake decides to take matters into his own hands to break into said prison, rescue his ex-wife's sister and kids, and safely get them the hell out of Dodge. But first, Rake needs rehab (cue the outdoor training montage!) to get back to peak lethality in a stunningly short time. Re-teaming with his partner, Nik (Golshifteh Farahani), Rake manages to infiltrate the prison and free his family members, killing Davit in the process, leaving his surviving brother lusting for revenge.
Hargrave deserves props for (a) knowing what his audience is craving and (b) delivering on it in a bigger and bolder way. The characters, events and subplots here in this sequel are almost secondary to what physically happens in this sequel to Rake and company while trying to escape that prison (family in tow). It's during the early to mid stages of EXTRACTION 2 when Hargrave puts his foot on the accelerator with a never-look-back audacity. Like the JOHN WICK films before it, this EXTRACTION series is all about placing its hero in harms way and finding innovative ways for him to murder-death-kill a path to freedom. Remember the 12-minute single-shot action scene of the first film? It's usurped here by a staggering 21 minute "oner" that showcases Rake and his team taking their targets away from that prison, and all while facing dozens upon dozens of armed pursuers that want them all dead. The entire rescue mission set inside the prison is essentially bravura enough to serve as the highlight point in most other action films, but then Hargrave spills the events outside of the prison and into a vast chase involving a moving train, jeeps, helicopters, and just about every other kitchen sink element tossed in. And, yeah, it sure looks like it was done in one long take.
Now, I'm consciously aware that this is impossible without some careful edits and CG fakery, but the entire scene is so breathtakingly realized and packs such a mighty visceral wallop that it's enough to defy nitpicky criticisms. The sequence just goes on and on...and on...and with Rake and Nik punching, kicking, shooting, stabbing, and blowing up any man or thing in their path in increasingly savage ways. On levels of showmanship, EXTRACTION 2 is even more dazzling than the first and can hold a candle up to the latest JOHN WICK.
I also really appreciated that Farahani's Nik is afforded a lot more to do here, and this time she gets into the thick of things as deeply as Rake himself, and some of her own close-quartered skirmishes with multiple waves of Zurab's goons are as pulse-pounding as anything the main hero gets involved in. And as for Hemsworth himself, well...he could easily play characters like this in his sleep, but he cuts such a large and imposing physical frame in these films and - at the same time - makes concentrated efforts to humanize this mass-murdering and unkillable hero. It's really hard to find fault with what he does here, because he's so effortlessly good. Where Russo's screenplay falters with him, though, is that he taints this sequel with too many dime-a-dozen genre conventions that we've seen countless times before in far better action thrillers. EXTRACTION 2 is basically a MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE-styled thriller involving re-recruiting its hero into, yes, an impossible mission of limitless perils. Rake is also Rambo-esque in the way that he's a figure with a tragic past that just so happens to be a thoroughly skilled trained killer that just wants to retreat to a peaceful life in the wilderness, but is drawn back into a world of hellish violence. While watching EXTRACTION 1 and 2, I was left with the nagging feeling that Russo could have done something far more dramatically potent with his character. The end result in these two films is serviceable, but simply not original enough to stand proudly apart from the pack.
Some of this film's subplots are also half-baked, like one of Rake's sister-in-law's sons, who seems torn between right and wrong throughout the film, which honestly doesn't amount to much. EXTRACTION 2 also builds to a largely unsatisfying non-ending that wants to set-up more installments to come versus simply providing a solid standalone sequel with a beginning, middle, and end that organically builds to more adventures. There are also times when - as astoundingly engineered as his action sequences are - Hargrave's editorial choices and wonky camerawork can be a little too chaotic and frantic for his own good and lack the ballet-like grace and clarity that the JOHN WICK pictures have perfected. Still, if you're looking for a no-nonsense, over-the-top, brutally efficient, and take-no-prisoners action blockbuster, then you'll be most likely won over by EXTRACTION 2's impressively barbaric spectacle, as I mostly was. It's good junk food cinema: lacking in substance, but tasty. And it more than covers up for its deficiencies in terms of ferocious and maximum gut-punch impact.
And, boy oh boy, does this film ever - ahem! - rake in a high body count.