The first “Extraction” surprised everyone— including, quite possibly, its creators— by being a big hit upon its release in 2020, with Netflix claiming that the film attracted over 99 million viewers in its first four weeks alone. Whether you believe that or not (streaming services are not, after all, required to substantiate their viewership claims), there’s no denying that the Chris Hemsworth vehicle did well enough to make a sequel all but assured. Fast forward to 2023 and the release of “Extraction 2,” which ups the ante with higher stakes, more characters, bigger stunts, and a longer runtime… which includes an (ostensibly) seamless extended action sequence that is twice the length of the one from the first movie. Too bad “more” isn’t always “better.”

The sequel is an overblown, chaotic mess that forces your brain to tune out.

The movie hits the ground running, starting more or less where the first one left off: Already gravely wounded, the absurdly named mercenary Tyler Rake (Hemsworth) is shot several times, once right in the neck, and he falls off a bridge in Bangladesh to his apparent— and, if it were anyone else, inevitable— death. (This sequence, obviously meant to tie the current story to the previous one, has the unintended effect of reminding you of just how implausible it would be for this character to have survived at all, but let’s let that pass.) He is nursed back to health with the help of his mercenary friends, the siblings Nik and Yaz (played respectively by Golshifteh Farahani and Skinny Jim Caviezel— uh, I mean Adam Bessa). They take Rake to a remote cabin in the snowy mountains to live out his retirement… only for him to get back in the game for one more mission: to rescue a family held captive by a Georgian gangster holed up in a deadly prison. And when that gangster is killed in the middle of the (wait for it) extraction, his ruthless brother vows revenge, no matter the cost…

You are no doubt imagining a certain kind of movie right now. Well, “Extraction 2” is exactly the movie you’re thinking of… but not good. It’s the kind of mindless action blockbuster where a shadowy figure (in this case a criminally wasted Idris Elba) recruits a retired mercenary for one last job; where the protagonist’s painful memories of his dead child are a substitute for him having an actual personality; where everyone has unlimited access to machine guns and grenades and rocket launchers and helicopters; where nameless henchmen politely attack the hero one at a time; where the good guys are unaffected by punches and explosions and vehicular crashes and bullets… unless they’re a supporting character in the second act, in which case they dramatically succumb to their wounds in slow motion as their colleagues scream in anguish… but you can’t hear them because the sound editor has replaced their dialogue with mournful music. We’ve seen this all before: The villain pauses before shooting the hero to sneer, “I’m going to enjoy killing you,” allowing the hero to get away. Later, that same villain holds a kid hostage and the hero tells him, “This is between me and you. Let him go.” (Yes, these are both actual lines from the movie.) You know what? We deserve better.

Where “Extraction” was a fun, “turn-off-your-brain” kind of thing, the sequel is an overblown, chaotic mess that forces your brain to tune out. It’s nothing but endless fight scenes and shootouts and car chases and explosions, with some quiet (but woefully unconvincing) character-driven moments peppered here and there. Stuntman-turned-director Sam Hargraves may know how to design a fight scene— and he clearly does— there’s more to a good action film than impressive choreography. The only way for viewers to be invested in a movie— any movie— is for them to be given characters they actually care about. Sadly, we get none of that here; nor do we get believable characterizations, an engaging plot, coherent camerawork, dialogue that doesn’t sound like it came from a second-rate comic book, and certain key action scenes not filmed in near-total darkness.

It’s not all bad, though. Some of the action is very well done, and the CGI enhancements are quite convincing. The fight scene in the fitness gym is absolutely terrific, recalling the imaginative prop-based hijinks of Jackie Chan at his peak. And the glass rooftop fight that follows that sequence is pretty thrilling, too. And, on a refreshing but minor point, the one female protagonist doesn’t face off with the one female antagonist for arguably the first time in action cinema history. But all in all, there’s nothing in “Extraction 2” that hasn’t been done better elsewhere. (And yes, I include the first “Extraction” in that pronouncement.)  


5 crowns: a must-see
4 crowns: excellent
3 crowns: good but not great
2 crowns: just about watchable
1 crown: avoid at all costs

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