By Leah Greenblatt
April 22, 2020 at 11:00 AM EDT
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Jasin Boland/NETFLIX

Ask not what your ruthless movie mercenary can do for you; ask if there's a puppy or a small child he can rescue to redeem his broken soul.

Like John Wick, The Professional, and other films before it, Extraction is the story of a flinty-eyed assassin undone by softer animals — a traumatized tween, perchance, or a tender pitbull — but otherwise undimmed in his pitiless bloodlust.

Like Wick, too, its extreme action arrives via a first-time director who made his name in large-scale stunt coordinating: here, Marvel veteran Sam Hargrave (Avengers, Deadpool, Thor: Ragnorak). He gives the movie its blunt, bone-crunching appeal, though it’s largely up to Chris Hemsworth to humanize its laconic hero, an Australian commando improbably named Tyler Rake.

Rake, unsurprisingly, is a man of action, not words: When some shadowy international syndicate calls on him to rescue an Indian drug lord’s son from a rival in Dhaka, he brusquely agrees, for a fee. So what if that means blazing a trail through the city that leaves bodies piled up like so many discarded pixie sticks in the Bangladeshi dust? Extraction is a dirty job, mate.

The boy at least — a shy, gentle kid named Ovi (Rudhraksh Jaiswal) — seems nothing like his imprisoned father, or the brooding consigliere assigned to protect him, Saju (Bollywood star Randeep Hooda). He’s also the only one even remotely phased by the constant, spectacular violence unfolding on screen: a series of savagely efficient kills that don’t quite rival John Wick’s mirror games or murder-by-library book for creativity, but nearly make up for it in casual brutality.

Accordingly, Ovi spends most of the movie just trying to catch his breath — which makes him the ideal proxy for an audience whose own appetites for destruction will probably be the best indicator of how much they'll enjoy what's happening here. It’s not that the movie lacks for subplots or secondary characters: Stranger ThingsDavid Harbour shows up as fellow mercenary and possible frenemy, and Priyanshu Painyuli’s Amir Asif makes for a suitably oily kingpin, part playboy, part barbarian; Golshifteh Farahani (Paterson) brings the briefest moments of female energy as Tyler’s levelheaded handler.

It's the tentative friendship between Tyler and Ovi, of course, that separates all this from what can otherwise often feel like an exceptionally cinematic round of Call of Duty. For the most part, Hargrave handles that storyline with admirable restraint — skirting sentimentality in the present tense, though he can't quite stop himself from inserting a few shimmery flashbacks to Tyler's tragic past. And he misses the opportunity, too, to let Hemsworth flex his proven comedic bona fides; one well-timed Goonies joke aside, the actor hardly has the chance.

Instead, Extraction mostly delivers what its swaggering trailer promises: international scenery; insidious villains; a taciturn, tree-trunk Aussie. And the comfort of knowing that the kids — or at least the one he came for — are probably alright. B

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