Extraction (4 stars)

Extraction

Excellent action and earnest emoting lift a predictable thriller, starring Chris Hemsworth

With MCU shenanigans on hold, this may be the closest you'll get to super-heroics for a while and it's a pretty solid substitute. Starring Thor himself, Chris Hemsworth, and with a screenplay from Joe Russo (who, alongside brother Anthony, called the shots on four Marvel movies including Endgame), Extraction is the directorial debut of stunt supremo Sam Hargrave (also a Marvel regular, who co-ordinated the stunt work on the final two Avengers instalments).

Based on the graphic novel Ciudad, which the Russo brothers also had a hand in, it's a violent, propulsive actioner set primarily amidst the colourful chaos of Bangladesh. It sees Hemsworth's preposterously monikered mercenary, Tyler Rake, called in to extract the teenage son of an imprisoned Indian drug lord, who has been kidnapped by rival Bangladeshi kingpin Amir (Priyanshu Painyuli, playing Amir as a psychotic, vainglorious Prince-alike).

The boy in question is the shy, spectacled Ovi (Rudhraksh Jaiswal) who is utterly overwhelmed by his predicament and has no choice but to put his trust in Tyler. Rescuing the kid from a grotty Dhaka flat is a relative doddle, but Tyler's team are then set upon by a mysterious assailant and they have the entirety of Dhaka's (corrupt) police force to contend with when the city is locked down.

Iranian actress Golshifteh Farahani (About Elly, Paterson) plays Tyler's bad-ass boss Nik. Although unafraid to get her hands dirty, Farahani imbues her with enough emotional depth to suggest she's impacted by her actions. Also in pursuit is Ovi Senior's right-hand man Saju (Hindi star Randeep Hooda, who gets stuck into some quality ass-kicking himself), while Stranger Things' David Harbour is a welcome but glaringly underused presence as Tyler's shifty pal Gaspar.

It's not quite in the John Wick or The Raid category of elevated violence but it's certainly in that ballpark. Protracted fight scenes are properly edge-of-the-seat stuff, the surging camerawork keeping strikingly apace with the action, nimbly nipping through windows and doors and creating a palpable sense of danger. As comfortable in the confines of a corridor as bombing it about in a car chase, Extraction exhibits an ingenious, sometimes amusingly irreverent approach to action, as an adversary is attacked with a cup and smashed into a pile of plates, while Tyler takes out one man by rapidly swinging another. And it features the most enjoyable scene of a grown man beating up children since Bad Santa.

Most crucially, the odd couple at its centre are hard not to root for; Tyler's tragic backstory is far from original but played with poignancy by Hemsworth, while the wide-eyed, mistreated Ovi makes for an inherently heartrending buddy. With its narrative cliches and white saviour protagonist Extraction is a film that, on the surface, is easy to dismiss, but it's performed so earnestly and made so skilfully that the result is astonishingly enjoyable.

Available to watch on Netflix from Fri 24 Apr.

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