Does EXTRACTION further elevate the “Video On Demand” genre?
It may be a slippery truth, but I have, to a point, been quite a champeen of the “Video On Demand” business model where smaller films are stumbled upon, finding modern Hollywood cinema exhausting, cynical and overfed (Batman V Superman, TMNT2, and X-Men-Whatever-The-Name-Officially-Is, I tip my hat to you, as it appears audience-goers are beginning to catch on to your incoherent crazy-making style of boring excess). I like old-fashioned genre pictures that indeed trade in fisticuffs, steely heroes, and the odd car chase, but don’t crush me with seven climaxes where one suffices, keeping things on a recognizably human plane. So, yes, I prefer Jason Statham’s ignored WILD CARD to the swaggering, preening cartoon inanity of FAST & FURIOUS 7 (yes, I’m very sad that Paul Walker is dead – check him out in VEHICLE 19 , which isn’t seamless but offers some absorbing underutilized South African locations and a to-the-point action story focusing almost entirely on Walker).
But even disciples become turncoats; It was fresh and novel when tax breaks opened up the Southern States to filming, as Louisiana, Georgia and Alabama, now known as “Hollywood South” suddenly had film crews littering their rivers and highways filming car chases and drug busts gone wrong. It was stimulating to see heavyweight pros like Robert De Niro, Bruce Willis and Al Pacino turn up in these mid-level genre pieces, perhaps taking a paycheck , but adding gravitas to small action projects that before would have featured Eric Roberts and a lesser Carradine brother.
Fistfights, Warehouses, and Anonymous Alabama Roadways…
But with EXTRACTION, we have reached a tipping point. A story about a young CIA agent attempting to rescue his old CIA agent dad sounds both promising and hackneyed! While I imagined nothing new plotwise, I also imagined a boat chase on the Danube, a fistfight by Big Ben, or at least a car chase around that big Ceausescu-era parliament building in Bucharest that everyone has filmed at the last decade. Wesley Snipes must have gotten in twelve shootouts outside of that place.
But no, the totality of EXTRACTION (which takes place all over the world) was filmed in “Sweet Home Alabama,” and I’m getting wise. The same patch of highway that Jason Patric had a car chase on in THE PRINCE resurfaces here, doubling none-too-successfully as Prague (!). (Do I know if it’s the same exact stretch of road? Well, nah, I don’t, but that’s the point – Alabama stretches of road are alarmingly similar!) You expect a little international location excitement in a worn-out project like this, but in its place we get a fistfight with bikers in an Alabama bar (!), a couple of shootouts in meagerly adorned warehouses (!!) and plenty of car action on anonymous Alabama roadways. Thank you, no.
“Smirking in a leather jacket he apparently really likes.”
Willis is really going minimalist these days, not just in his acting. He only showed up on the set for one day, so you have lots of shots of him tied to a chair, or smirking in a leather jacket he apparently really likes. As he is an undisputed movie star, there is no doubt Willis’ footage is still the most compelling in the film, although MMA champ Gina Carano is a stimulating and believably kick-ass presence; it’s demoralizing to see that she’s gone from a lead in a Steven Soderbergh film to a lead in the adequate Puerto-Rican shot VOD flick INTO THE BLOOD to now simply adding a little spice to Other People’s Movies (she also recently appeared in the silly but better-than-EXTRACTION THE HEIST, featuring the worn-out but still Kingly De Niro and Jeffrey Dean Morgan). Someone put her front and center please! Kellan Lutz as the lead is a physical presence and pouty in that Twilight way, but his character is a walking cliché and he finds no way to give it a spark.
Oh, and EXTRACTION, including a lengthy and stylish title sequence, is barely 80 damn minutes. Guys, I’ll defend low budget energy and old-fashioned star power any day of the week, but next time pay Willis for a second day and make him work a little, and if you want to set a film in Prague, at least double it in low-budget European mainstays Bulgaria or Romania, OK? Alabama has its qualities, but Europeanism isn’t one of them. EXTRACTION also has a sleep-inducing blue sheen to much of its photography. So avoid that filter too, while you’re at it. If you catch EXTRACTION on cable, watch the prologue, where Willis does 78% of his acting (they were wise to put a scene of his up front, to trick viewers into thinking its a Willis movie), and hang around for that groovy opening credit sequence. Then keep it on if you want to take a nap, by all means. Although my my go-to for a pleasant sleep aid is Bob Ross and THE JOY OF PAINTING.