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'Extraction 2' Review

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June 9, 2023
Hunter Friesen
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Between Tom Cruise, the John Wick franchise, and the newly minted Extraction franchise, a constant battle of one-upmanship is going on within the stunt industry (at least in the Western hemisphere, as Asia has already established itself as a master of the art form). The jumps are getting higher, the setpieces are getting longer and more complicated, and the violence is being doled out through more creative avenues. It’s a buyer’s market, with all of us being happy customers. The continuous rejection by AMPAS to include a stunt category within the Oscars may be a blessing in disguise, as someone (we all know it’s Cruise) may go a bit overboard in pursuit of that gold trophy.

“Going overboard” is the name of the game when it comes to Extraction 2, at least within the elaborate set pieces. Tyler Rake (Chris Hemsworth) proves that good viewership (and having a distributor hellbent on burning as much cash as humanely possible) is the best medicine. He’s miraculously survived the mortal wounds he suffered at the end of the first entry, with his handler, Nik (Golshifteh Farahani), putting him into forced retirement. Of course, no action hero can stay out of the game for long. A mysterious messenger arrives at Tyler’s doorstep with a mission: extract his ex-wife’s sister and her two children from an infamous Georgian prison. After a few minutes of soul-searching and one Rocky training montage, Tyler is back in fighting shape, ready to bulldoze an unquantifiable amount of bad guys in his path.

Extraction established itself in the summer of 2020 with its focus on the brutality of close-quarters combat through methodical long takes and gruesome violence. Stuntman-turned-director Sam Hargrave mixed the smoothness of John Wick with the gruffness of Jason Bourne, delivering semi-mindless carnage at a time we all needed a bit of escapism. 

This sequel doesn't lose sight of that identity, with the opening set piece unfolding across an eye-watering 21-minute long take, beginning from a jail cell and ending with a train derailment. Of course, just like Sam Mendes’ 1917, the single take here is digitally stitched together from various smaller takes spread across various locations. Nonetheless, it’s a sight to behold as it lunges from a stealth mission to a prison yard brawl to a car chase to a train heist without ever losing an ounce of energy. The athleticism of the actors is tested, with Hemsworth reaching peak physical performance just as about anyone else would be on the ground gasping for air.

Hargrave may have broken Hemsworth free of the shackles of Marvel fight choreography and editing, but the script by frequent MCU director Joe Russo goes through a speedrun of every action movie cliché in the book. We’ve got a badass hero with a tragic past that he revisits by watching old footage from a family vacation at a beach; a stereotypical Eastern European villain that waxes poetically about the value of family; “one last job” that gets the hero out of retirement; and the sacrifice of a comrade (no spoilers of course). You’ve seen this all before, both in better and worse movies. 

But neither you nor I are watching Extraction 2 for the plot, so it’s best not to dwell on its shortcomings. The action is here in all its bombastic glory, and you don’t even need to leave the couch to enjoy it. What more could you want on a Friday night?

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