It’s one of life’s newest existential questions brought on by social distancing: do I love Extraction because of circumstance or because it’s actually great?
This past weekend I watched Extraction and I absolutely loved it. It had action, high stakes and a great movie-star role for Chris Hemsworth to play other than Thor. What’s not to love?
I mean I’m pretty sure I loved it… Although I have only been averaging about maybe 15 minutes each day outside my house for the past two months, maybe I’m a little off…
Am I sure I love it?
I at least definitely really liked it a lot. I mean, it had some holes. Nothing’s perfect. I also haven’t seen many new movies this year, something that I typically see a lot of…
Shoot, am I positive that I loved this movie the way I think? It has everything I normally want but I’m someone who goes to the movies almost every weekend and I’m usually somewhat of a movie snob. Is my lack of new-movie-viewing changing my tastes in movies or am I overthinking this now?
Extraction is a whole lot of nonsense when I really think about it but does everything need to make sense to be good? Face/Off is an objectively great movie where Nicolas Cage (playing the villain) and John Travolta (playing the good guy) literally swap faces and that’s the movie. Somehow that’s the only physical feature they had to swap to convince people, including loved ones who had known them for years. If they only swap faces, Nicolas Cage’s face would be on John Travolta’s body and vice versa. The fact that this would be a total give away is completely ignored. It makes zero sense but that doesn’t matter. It’s still a masterpiece.
I need to figure this out. Quarantine is messing with my mind and since I’m just sitting around my house anyway I might as well write a completely unnecessary, over the top article about openly having an internal crisis on whether or not I loved a movie on Netflix.
First let’s give some background and set up the parameters of this rabbit-hole we’re about to dive in.
- As I said before, I love movies. I go to the movies regularly. I watch constantly while I’m home. Now I’m social distancing so the only new movies I can watch are releases to streaming services. There’s a chance I’m going through some sort of withdrawal. There were so many movies that were supposed to come out that I was looking forward to but didn’t. I’m worried this is influencing how much I like the new movies that I actually get to see.
- I love action movies, so it’s not surprising that I’d really like another one. I believe that Die Hard is not only the greatest action movie of all time but it’s also my favorite movie of all time (and subsequently my favorite Christmas movie of all time. Now you know my stance on that debate, so there’s that).
- I went and saw around 10 new releases in theaters prior to quarantine. I really liked most of them and almost loved one of them (‘Invisible Man’ was right there until the ending). I’ve seen three new releases post-quarantine, including Extraction. I know definitively that I did not like the two that weren’t Extraction. I think I loved Extraction but again, I can’t be sure yet.
Now we have a baseline on what my current situation is, why I may have cause for concern, what my typical tastes are and how I responded to new movies pre and post quarantine. We’re trying to find out if I loved Extraction the way I think I did. My hypothesis (hypothesis or hope, they’re interchangeable in this situation) is that I definitely loved Extraction regardless of the quarantine.
I feel like a scientist! This is so official. Let’s get started.
Since we’ve established that I love action movies, then the only way to tell if I loved Extraction is to measure it against other great action movies that I love and have seen pre-quarantine. There are a number essential aspects that the greatest action movies of all time possess which will help me determine whether or not I actually loved Extraction. I will be using Die Hard and John Wick as my “control variables” (science!) because they are the two best action movies that I can think of right now and definitely meet the requirements in every category outlined below.
Does the movie have a sound premise on the surface that’s actually completely ridiculous the more you look at it?
In Die Hard, John McClain is a New York City cop visiting his estranged wife and children in California for the holidays. His wife works for a big corporation and when he lands in L.A. he goes straight to her office’s holiday party from the airport. The office building is eventually held hostage by terrorists/thieves during the holiday party and John McClain has to rescue everyone. So far the premise is sound.
What were the chances that a wildly over-qualified police officer from NYC is attending his estranged wife’s office party on the day that terrorists/thieves decide to take over the building and that he just so happens to be in a private bathroom right as the hostage situation is started which allows him to escape and almost single-handedly defeat the bad guys? Probably not great, which makes the premise perfectly ridiculous.
In John Wick, John Wick is a retired assassin who encounters the son of a Russian mob boss and the son’s lackeys at a gas station; an encounter which motivates them to break into his house at night, beat up Wick, kill the puppy his deceased wive delivered to him about 24 hours ago and steal his beloved car. Wick, rightfully pissed off, comes out of retirement to steal back his car and more importantly get his revenge. Sound premise, makes sense.
John Wick lives in a world where I’d estimate at least 75% of the people living in it are a part of a secret assassin underworld that somehow the other 25% who aren’t a part of the underworld haven’t noticed exists, making this another perfectly ridiculous plot.
In Extraction, Tyler Rake is a mercenary who signs up to rescue the kidnapped child of an imprisoned Indian crime lord from a rival crime lord in Bagledesh. Sound premise so far- Rake is a hired gun and the Indian crime lord can’t rescue his son himself so he hires a professional.
Here’s where we go off the rails. The Indian crime lord has apparently fallen on hard times and doesn’t have enough money to pay Rake and his team. The crime lord decides to double-cross Rake by having one of his own top men intercept his son from Rake once Rake has him. Why doesn’t he think his top man is capable of rescuing his son but is capable of stealing him away from the man who just did? I don’t know! It definitely makes the movie better and makes it delightfully ridiculous enough to qualify in this first category.
Is our hero cool?
John McClain has an attitude, wears a white tank, curses like a sailor, throws out unbelievable zingers on an incredibly consistent basis and beats up bad guys three times his size. He’s also able to talk to himself throughout half of a movie without coming across as a lunatic and making it seem out of place. John McClain was definitely cool.
John Wick has an awesome house, drives a Mustang, is the greatest of all the assassins in a world filled with assassins, has a wardrobe that mainly consists of black suits and loves his dog with all of his heart like any person with a soul would. He also invented “gun-fu” and even if you have no idea what “gun-fu” is, you can tell by the name that it’s awesome. John Wick is also definitely cool.
Tyler Rake is off to a tough start with that name BUT we’ll make up for it by the end of this paragraph. Rake has tattoos, is Australian (I don’t know if there are many Australians who aren’t considered cool), cliff-dives from crazy heights, is played by Thor and, most importantly, kills a guy with an actual rake. If you kill somebody with an item that also happens to be your last name, not only does it make up for the fact that you have a lame last name, but it vaults you to cool status. If Chris Hemsworth played Tyler Toilet instead of Tyler Rake you, of course, wouldn’t initially think he was cool UNTIL he killed someone with an actual toilet in the midst of an incredible fight scene. Maybe coming back from the last name Toilet is a bit of a stretch but you get my point. Extraction gets a second category in its favor!
Does our hero have a tragic backstory?
Holly McClain gets an amazing opportunity to take a job in Los Angeles during the 80’s when corporate jobs for women weren’t exactly common. John McClain doesn’t support his wife and doesn’t want to leave New York so Holly takes their two kids and moves to LA . John thinks she won’t last and will eventually move back, which she doesn’t. Not as much tragic as it is unfortunate. I mean 50% of marriages end in divorce, John, you’re just estranged. But for the sake of our study we’re counting the societal destruction of the institution of marriage in this film as tragic, I guess. (Insert shoulder shrug emoji here).
John Wick falls in love and retires from a life assassinating people for strange gold coins as a result. But that doesn’t last when his wife dies from a terminal illness. Knowing her death is coming, John’s wife arranges for a puppy to be sent to John after she dies to help him cope and remember her. (John Wick is also apparently a dog whisperer because within the night he’s potty-trained the dog and can trust the dog to be left at home alone). The dog lasts maybe 24 hours before bad guys kill it in front of John which is just such a horrible thing to do. Everything about this is tragic.
Tyler Rake had a wife and a son. His son develops lymphoma and eventually dies from it. Rather than be there with his son during his son’s time of need, Rake decides it’s too difficult to see his son in this condition so he abandons his family to enlist in Australia’s special services and isn’t there for his son’s death. What a jerk move. It sounds so much worse writing it out than it did in the movie. Either way, someone having difficulty dealing with their child’s death automatically qualifies as tragic. 3/3 so far.
Do we have a great villain?
Alan Rickman’s Hans Gruber will go down as possibley the best action movie villain of all time. You would never look at Gruber from his physical appearance and be scared but just his sheer intelligence alone is intimidating. Gruber was the ultimate match for McClain. He legitimately had the perfect plan and would’ve definitely gotten away with it if the one person capable of stopping him hadn’t happened upon his caper. What horrible luck.
I’m just going to include the Tarasov family mob as the “villain” for John Wick. Anyone who kills a dog is truly evil and someone who protects that person, even when it’s family, is also evil. They aren’t even close to being on Gruber’s level but still top-notch foes for Wick.
This is the first category that isn’t going to be in Extraction‘s favor. Amir Asif, is Bangladesh’s biggest drug lord who kidnaps his arch-enemy’s son, holds him for ransom, controls the entire city police force as his own personal army, employs a small group of children as some sort of extremely ineffective attack squad and throws one of the children in said attack squad off of a roof. The problem with Amir is that he never actually does any of the dirty work. He even has a henchmen throw the kid off the roof for him. He’s always managing from his ivory tower. As a matter of fact, he watches the final battle scene with binoculars, miles away from the fighting in his literal ivory tower. In the end, he gets caught with his pants down (again, literal) in the bathroom and is killed by a side character in a 20 second throw-away scene. If you’re getting taken out by a side-character that we’ve spent a total of 30 seconds with, you can’t qualify in this category. A solid, but not great, villain.
Is there a next-level fight sequence toward the beginning of the movie that establishes our hero’s skills?
John McClain, armed only with a hand gun, is hiding from Tony, brother of second-in-command bad guy Karl, in an under-construction area of the building. Tony is armed with a machine gun and has a bag of C4 over his shoulders. Tony slowly walks through the room looking for John as he loads his machine gun (loudly) and follows it up with “I promise I won’t hurt you.” (Side note- You definitely don’t load a machine gun if you don’t intend to hurt someone). He then immediately lunges behind a stack of wood and fires where he assumes John was hiding. (See? I told you he intended to hurt someone). John turns on a table saw to distract Tony, they get into a big fight, both men lose their guns and eventually they tumble down a staircase where Tony breaks his neck. From this fight we learn that John is quick on his feet, is elite at hide and seek, can hang in there with someone twice his size and always needs a little bit of luck in the end to finish the job. On the surface the scene isn’t “next-level” but it’s subtleties set up what we’ll watch for the rest of the movie which, in its entirety, is “next-level.”
In John Wick‘s first fight scene, around 15 members of the Russian crime syndicate wearing masks are sent to John’s house to kill him. John takes each of them out one by one using a combination of firing precision and hand-to-hand combat that helps establish John Wick as someone you don’t want to mess around with. He’s quick, hyper-efficient (always makes sure to finish with a head-shot) and extremely brutal. This is also our first introduction to “gun-fu” which has changed action movies for the foreseeable future.
In Tyler Rake’s first fight scene he takes out two of his captors while his hands are zip-tied and there’s a hood blindfolding him. Rake rips said zip-ties off of his wrists (because muscles) and takes out an entire room full of thugs with a gun, his fists, a table, a well-placed gaping hole in the wall and a rake, which we mentioned earlier. We find out Rake is well-trained and resourceful but also highly efficient and brutal like John Wick. (There was also a lot of clear influence from the John Wick movies in many of the fight scenes including this one). 4 for 5 so far!
Is there at least one awesome quote from our hero?
I could name 20 McClain quotes off the top of my head but here are just a handful of my favorites:
“Come out to the coast! We’ll get together, have a few laughs.”
“Nine million terrorists in the world and I gotta kill one with feet smaller than my sister.”
“I promise I will never even think about going up in a tall building again.”
“Welcome to the party, pal!”-John McClain, Die Hard
John Wick doesn’t have as many but there’s one great standout:
“People keep asking if I’m back and I haven’t really had an answer…But now, yeah, I’m thinkin’ I’m back!”-John Wick, John Wick
A second underrated one is during the final fight scene where Viggo says to John, “What happened, John? We’re professionals. Civilized.” John answers:
“Do I look civilized to you?”John Wick, John Wick
There’s unfortunately no great quote from Tyler Rake, which is disappointing. Another strike for Extraction but still not enough yet to convince me I don’t actually love this movie. Moving on!
Does our hero get knocked down but get up again?
This is a hilarious article that interviews a medical professional in regard to the trauma John McClain puts his body through. To quickly summarize- John falls down a flight of steps, walks across a floor of broken glass in his bare feet, gets shot in the shoulder and breaks through a glass window from the outside with his torn-up feet after diving over the top of the building with a fire-hose tied around his waste to prevent him from falling. (Best part of the article linked above is that after going over how horrific all of these injuries would’ve been, the doctor only “feels doubtful” that John wouldn’t have gotten into an ambulance at the end of the movie. The doctor outlines how John would be just short of dead but only finds it doubtful he wouldn’t take an ambulance to the hospital lol).
Outside of taking countless blows from various fist-fights throughout the movie, John Wick is shot in the chest twice while wearing a bullet-proof vest, stabbed, thrown off of a balcony and gets rammed by an SUV. And that’s just the first movie we’re talking about. Parts 2 and 3 are within a week or two of the first and he’s somehow still going full-tilt while accumulating even worse injuries as time goes on.
This one is interesting because Tyler Rake does get knocked down and gets up again throughout the movie but is also killed at the end of the movie. There are two reasons why I think Extraction still qualifies for this category even though Rake’s death means he doesn’t technically “get up again.”
The first reason is because of the following example. At one point Rake falls into the street while having a knife fight with his soon-to-be ally, gets sliced a couple of times, gets bruised up and is run into by a car. Rake’s foe thinks he’s won until Rake somehow got up and into a truck and runs over his opponent with the truck. (The guy Rake was fighting also somehow gets up after Rake and the kid get away). After this brawl, Rake’s arm is severely injured. They find a hiding place where Rake is able to tend to his arm and put it in a sling. There’s maybe 10 minutes of screen-time before Rake’s injured arm is magically healed, out of the sling and punching bad guys. (Slings seem to just be for show in this movie because Rake isn’t the only person to take his arm out of a sling and fight with it).
The second reason is a complicated one. At the end of the movie Rake has been shot multiple times and is still fending off enemies so that Ovi, the kid he’s trying to rescue, has enough time to escape. At first it seems like he’s willingly sacrificing himself so that his mission will be accomplished. But then surprisingly it looks like he’s done the impossible and repelled his last enemy and is turning to escape with Ovi. He’s going to survive! Just when we have our hopes up a bullet comes out of nowhere and hits Rake in the neck, sending him falling over the bridge where the fighting occured and into the water.
You would think this disqualifies Rake from this category. You can’t get up from a shot to the neck and 50 foot fall into a river. Or can you? The very last scene heavily implies that Rake somehow lived when Ovi turns and sees a man in the distance who looks an awful lot like Rake. The focus never turns away from Ovi’s face so we can’t be sure, but just the implication that he’s alive has to mean he is. Otherwise, what’s the point? Recovering from a bullet wound through the neck is the definition of getting knocked down but getting back up again. We’re giving Extraction another point based on the implication alone.
Does someone betray our hero?
Harry Ellis is a slime-ball executive who works with John McClain’s wife Holly. He also happens to be the only person besides Holly that knows John is the one causing trouble for the terrorists/thieves. Ellis is tricked into thinking that if he gives up John, the terrorists/thieves will let everyone go. Ellis is an idiot, puts John & Holly in danger and gets himself killed even after giving John up. Betrayal.
The Continental Hotel is a hotel for assassins where no killing can take place under assassin rules. If the John Wick universe was a game of tag, the Continental is base. Wick has a bounty on his head and his former assassin mentor accepts the bounty. It’s only a half-betrayal though because he has a change of heart and ends up saving Wick’s life. The real betrayal is to the entire assassin community when an assassin named Perkins decides to break the Continental’s rules and attempts to kill Wick within the hotel for double the bounty. Not cool, Perkins. Not cool.
Tyler Rake has a friend, Gaspar, whose life Rake once saved and Rake calls him in to return the favor. Rake is looking for sanctuary for himself and Ovi and Gaspar comes to their rescue. The problem is that Gaspar gets greedy when he hears the high price on the Ovi’s head, informs the bad guys where Ovi is and tries to kill Ovi. Luckily Rake stops Gaspar, but a pretty crappy way to thank someone for saving your life and definitely a betrayal.
Is there a crazy final set piece that wraps everything up for us in a nice bow?
Part of Hans Gruber’s final plot is to bring all the hostages to the roof of the building, blow up the roof with C4 and get away amid the chaos and rubble. John McClain figures Gruber’s plan out, runs up to the roof, saves the hostages from the explosion, jumps over the side of the building with a fire hose tied around his waist like I previously mentioned, breaks back into the building and finds his wife in the clutches of Gruber. McClain smartly tapes his gun, which only has two bullets left, to his back so that it isn’t noticeable from his front side . He then confronts Gruber and Gruber’s final henchman. While they think McClain is putting his hands behind his head, McClain reaches for his gun and shoots Guber and the henchman ending in Gruber eventually falling out of the window to his death. It’s a classic ending.
John Wick goes after Viggo, the Russian crime boss, who is trying to escape by helicopter. Wick takes out all of Viggo’s thugs by driving around and shooting everyone in a much more impressive way than I’m currently describing. They’re gearing up to fight mano y mano in the rain (because of course it’s raining) when Viggo pulls out a knife (because of course he has a knife). They fight some more, Viggo almost has Wick on the ropes and then Wick allows himself to be stabbed, throwing Viggo off guard and allowing him to disarm Viggo and finish the fight. It was also a pretty crazy final set piece to end things.
Tyler Rake is now partnering with hee Indian crime boss’s top man who has previously attempted to double cross Rake. All that matters to Rake is saving Ovi, he’s no longer concerned with the reward money. Rake’s team is sending in a chopper, but they have to get across a long bridge with an army protecting it (because of course they do) and with a sniper shooting from where they can’t see (because of course there is). It ends in spectacular fashion with cars exploding, bad guys being disposed of, helicopters being shot down from the sky and multiple sacrifices including Rake’s life (but probably not?!).
Ok, so what’s our conclusion? We’ve laid out all of our criteria for what makes a great action movie based on two of the greatest action movies of all time and assessed where Extraction fits within those categories. We also know that I love great action movies. Knowing all of this, it would be reasonable to conclude that if Extraction is a great action movie, then my love for it is real and not a product of quarantine goggles.
How does Extraction stack up? By our highly scientific deduction, Extraction contains seven of the nine aspects that we typically see in a great action film. The only areas that it comes up short are its less than stellar villain and its lack of any memorable quotes. While it’s not nearly close to being as legendary as Die Hard or John Wick, we can safely conclude that Extraction is a great enough action movie for me to have loved outside of quarantine and therefore I did, in fact, love Extraction.
In hindsight, writing over 4,000 words in the attempt to prove that I loved Extraction was probably proof enough.