We live in an era of action brands. Certain action franchises are more than the sum of our narrative expectations, extending to patterns in their stunts or set pieces that form a checklist and a new set of expectations among viewers. For example, every Mission: Impossible movie is going to feature a stunt that should get Tom Cruise killed. Every Fast and Furious will show us cars defying gravity in increasingly absurd ways. You can’t have a John Wick movie without close hand-to-hand combat and point-blank kill shots.


Even in only a single movie, Extraction – which we can now call a franchise after the release of the sequel, Extraction 2 – seemed to be striving to create brand awareness in its viewers. It’s an outgrowth of the John Wick ethos, except the copious amounts of gunplay get a certain sheen of respectability by approximating real-world extraction missions rather than just stylish assassins wantonly killing each other. And the thing that characterises an Extraction movie – which we should get used to, because they definitely plan to make more – is a central instance of a seemingly continuous, unbroken take that tests every logistical limitation known to filmmaking, and brashly smashes through it.

In the first movie, Chris Hemsworth’s Tyler Rake, a black ops mercenary, is run through a series of buildings, off a series of ledges and through a series of high-speed car chases, all while the camera apparently never leaves his side. You have to say “apparently” because there are, of course, hidden edits, just as there were in Birdman. But they are hidden skilfully enough that you aren’t inclined to complain about their existence, especially when the sequence is so thrilling, and when so much genuine effort goes into the staging despite the necessity of a little harmless “cheating.”

Maybe about 15 minutes that first time, the equivalent scene in Extraction 2 goes on for 20 minutes? Thirty minutes? You lose count. But because this is a sequel and everything must be bigger better more, the scene – which involves a prison riot, a car chase, and a train derailment – just continues to up the ante throughout, and we the viewers are the better for it.

Left for dead at the end of the first movie, Tyler does of course recover, and as a final nod to any sort of grounding in reality, director Sam Hargrave provides us scenes of Tyler learning to walk again and wondering if he’ll ever get out of a wheelchair. Not only will he be fully upwardly mobile, but he’ll be thrown right into the thick of the extraction game when a nameless handler played by Idris Elba (in a great cameo) appears on the doorstep of the wintry hideout where Tyler has been sent to convalesce and retire. Not so fast. It turns out the sister (Tinatin Dalakisvhili) of Tyler’s ex-wife (Olga Kurylenko) needs to be extracted from a Georgian prison run by militarised gangsters called the Nagazi, the most dangerous of whom is actually the woman’s husband (Tornike Bziava).


That’ll mean Tyler has to get the gang back together to complete the quick-strike tactical mission and emerge with the woman and her two children, a young girl (twins Miriami and Marta Kovziashvili) and a teenage boy (Andro Japaridze) who’s trying to figure out if he’s loyal to his mother or the violent path of his father. Tyler’s gang is the brother and sister team of Nik (Golshifteh Farahani) and Yaz Kahn (Adam Bessa), both of whom Tyler resents because they didn’t pull the plug on his life support. Given the feats of extreme flexibility and endurance he’s about to undergo, euthanasia would have been premature indeed.

You wouldn’t say that Extraction 2 is a significantly different movie at its core than Extraction, which by the way are both Netflix properties as the streamer attempts to nurture a franchise. But there’s something far more compelling about this material that goes beyond Tyler’s personal stake in the affairs. Or it could just be that the action is so imaginatively conceived that it overwhelms any nitpicks a viewer might have with story or character. Because this critic was so overwhelmed, it’s hard to say whether such nitpicks actually exist.


The centrepiece extended sequence is probably the reason to see the movie if you don’t have a natural interest in Georgian scumbugs and whether they get their comeuppance. But it’s hardly the only example of superlative technique on display. One set piece conducted on the panes of a glass skyscraper roof, which features a race against time to prevent an unconscious body from sliding off into oblivion, has that sort of excitement you get from a good Tom Cruise stunt, though that could just be because it borrows from the Burj Khalifa scene in Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol. The really impressive thing about it, though, is that the coordinators have staged it to cleverly make use of existing infrastructure to render the twists and turns of the fight more believable. When you’re suspending this much disbelief, it’s the little nods to plausible realism that carry you through.

This may not be Hemsworth’s most charismatic role, and it affords him essentially no opportunity to ply the humour we’ve seen in properties like Ghostbusters and Thor. Given all else that is demanded of him, it’s probably just as well that he isn’t trying to drop Marvel-style quips. Even with Marvel boy wonders Joe and Anthony Russo serving as writers and producers, Extraction 2 isn’t trying to sit comfortably within the MCU framework. A few moments of mordant humour do show themselves and seem to fit their moment perfectly.


Of course, Marvel is a brand in its own right – though there aren’t a huge number of franchises you can say that about. If Extraction has a chance to be one of them, it does so by building and improving on what audiences liked so much the first time. Assuming continued expansion along that trajectory, who knows – maybe Extraction 3 will just be one long Steadicam shot.


Extraction 2 is currently streaming on Netflix.

7 / 10