‘Extraction 2’ Review: Netflix’s Brutally Entertaining Action Sequel Belongs on the Big Screen

When we last left “Extraction” hero Tyler Rake (Chris Hemsworth) he was, well, he was dead. He’d been beaten, shot multiple times, and tossed into a river, where he was presumably (again) dead. And yet…in the final moments of the Sam Hargrave-directed feature, a shadowy figure emerged, looking a bit like Tyler, albeit very much not dead, to watch over his young charge so many months after his apparent (and, sorry, last time here) death. But, in the world of blockbuster filmmaking, no one is ever really dead (or, at least, no one is ever allowed to be really dead, as long as test audiences have a say), least of all an ass-kicking Aussie mercenary with a secret soft side, and thus: “Extraction 2.”

That Tyler is indeed not dead has served as the backbone of the Netflix action sequel’s marketing campaign, complete with the kicky hashtag #TylerRakeLives and its accompanying “punching arm on fire” emoji (which is basically this franchise in a nutshell). So it should come as little surprise that Hargrave’s sequel opens with the badass’ fraught resurrection. Flashbacks remind us of the many wounds the black market mercenary endured at the end of his last mission to extract an innocent kiddo. Tyler is soon pulled out of the river and essentially brought back to life — we’re told many times he was “clinically dead!” See! — thanks to great medical care and the sheer force of will of his handler Nik (Golshifteh Farahani) and her wise-cracking brother Yaz (Adam Bessa).

But what does Tyler have to live for? In the first “Extraction,” Tyler’s biggest asset was his total disregard for his own safety — inspired by his profound guilt over abandoning his young son as he was dying of cancer, a traumatic throughline referenced in the first film, and exploded further outward in its sequel. But with his body almost irrevocably broken, that’s not a feasible way forward. Just as Tyler is healing up in Dubai, Joe Russo’s screenplay zings us over to Georgia, where we’re introduced to the intensely bonded criminal brothers Zurab (Tornike Gogrichiani) and the incarcerated Davit (Tornike Bziava).

It’s clear that the duo will somehow intersect with Tyler and his team, and Russo offers a swift reveal of who actually needs to be extracted — this time, a family of three (Tinatin Dalakishvili as the mom, Andro Jafaridze as her son Sandro, and sisters Mariami and Marta Kovziashvili trading off as youngest sibling Nina) with a latent connection to Tyler. This ensures the ailing mercenary has no choice but to shape up and get back in the field. (It does not hurt that Idris Elba appears as the shadowy, nameless figure who offers Tyler the job, an absolutely obvious bid to further expand this franchise that’s also impossible to mind.)

“Extraction 2”Jasin Boland/Netflix

Cue up the “Rocky IV”-esque training montage — Austria subs in for the Soviet Union, though moments in which an angry Tyler chops wood and pushes heavy loads through snowy drifts smack of that classic boxing drama — and soon, Tyler is busting his way through a Georgian prison to save the terrified trio and battle back innumerable baddies in the process (Davit being just one of literally dozens). Hargrave’s 2020 feature directorial debut boasted an eye-popping 12-minute one-shot action sequence that saw Tyler fighting his way through Dhaka, Bangladesh, which Hemsworth, the director, and their talented stunt team have quite literally doubled up on, care of a 21-minute-long sequence styled to feel like a single shot.

This one takes Tyler and company through (deep breath) the initial prison break, a bone-crunching one-on-one with the pissed-off Davit, a massive prison yard melee (see: flaming arm), a high-energy car chase (in which many baddies die in quite funny ways), a desperate run through a creaky factory, a nutso train-set sequence (complete with swirling helicopters full of bad guys and plenty of hand-to-hand combat), and an explosive conclusion. This is how the first act of Hargrave’s film closes, an instantly iconic sequence that sets the film a cut above both its predecessor and the rest of its Netflix actioner brethren. Mostly, it deserves — hell, it nearly demands — to be seen on the big screen, though precious few Netflix subscribers will get that chance.

“Extraction 2”Jasin Boland/Netflix

While original Netflix action films have proven to be big hits for the streamer — the first “Extraction,” plus “Red Notice,” “The Mother,” and “The Gray Man” currently rank among Netflix’s all-time top 10 films — few are given a theatrical berth when they are released. (A handful of titles do still get limited runs before they hit the service.) The care and precision that go into the most brutal and bombastic sequences of “Extraction 2,” from that insane one-r to a later skyscraper-set battle royale, offer some of the best examples yet of what Netflix-backed talent can churn out, the kind of stuff that still belongs in a movie theater with a rip-roaring crowd. And while few viewers are likely to tune out of “Extraction 2” during such moments, at least based on the popularity of the first film and the anticipation for this one, it’s a shame that only a limited pool will see it in the best conditions, where tuning out is (ideally) not even an option.

The high energy of the film’s action sequences also helps paper over some of its less thrilling elements, including frequent exposition, a thinly drawn antagonist, and hammy flashbacks to Tyler’s previous pains that are mostly unnecessary. But when this thing moves — and, wow, does it ever — it offers one of the best examples yet of what Netflix bucks can buy. It even makes off with upped emotion (including that engendered by shining a brighter spotlight on the wonderful Farahani and Bessa), a new dimension to the always-evolving Hemsworth, and proof that the action franchise can capture old thrills with new stories. It won’t look as good on your TV or your computer, but that’s a mission for another day.

Grade: B

“Extraction 2” starts streaming on Netflix on Friday, June 16.

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