Extraction: A white man’s rescue mission in a filthy South Asian city
At last, Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, became the subject matter of a Hollywood action movie. After visiting a lot of African countries and the Middle East, the American culture industry found the existence of a small country (big in population size) in South Asia to explore a crime thriller. Though most of the movie is set in Dhaka, apart from some plate shots the entire shooting took place in India and Thailand.
When the story of a Hollywood action/thriller movie crosses the border, it portrays a country as the villain's habitat and a white man as the Superman-esque saviour of the victim. Under this formula, Dhaka is treated as the habitat of the villain, the drug lord Asif who kidnapped and held Ovi, the son of a drug lord from Mumbai, India, for ransom. Tyler Rake (Chris Hemsworth), a black-market mercenary, was hired from Australia to 'extract' the boy from the drug racket in Dhaka.
The director, Sam Hargrave, primarily the stunt coordinator of Russo Brothers (who are also the leading producers, among many, of the film), the directors of the Marvel's Avenger series (Joe Russo was the scriptwriter of Extraction), all were more focused on the action scenes instead of nurturing the storyline. Tyler, all alone, fought against the military, police, and an anonymous elite force, with marginal support from Saju (Ranadeep Hooda) who had his own reasons for rescuing the boy.
The director tried hard to create the crowded and grimy streets and shabby buildings of Dhaka in Ban Pong, Thailand and Ahmedabad, India, but a Dhakaite would easily find some errors (such as Hindi street signs or 'Allah Sarvo Shoktiman' (আল্লাহ সার্ভ শক্তিমান) written in Bengali on the body of CNG auto rickshaw). The Dhakaite Bengali accent of the characters was not authentic (Hindi intonation marred the Bengali), yet it was better than any Indian production seen earlier. Overall, the lack of research into local culture seems clearly evident in the film -- the research should have shown that the Pahela Baishakh (the Bengali New Year) rally does not take place at night and Dhakaites do not enjoy Hindi movie songs alone, they have also their own pop music icons.
In the action movies produced in Hollywood, to valourize the hero, 'almost impossible' kind of action takes place. In Mission impossible 6, Ethan Hunt and his team killed a few members of French police to snatch away a 'global criminal' Solomon Lane. Here to rescue a boy, from a criminal group, Tyler killed a few gangsters and countless numbers of police and military.
The only strength of the storyline was when Tyler came out from his hard shell of a mercenary who rescues people in exchange for money. Tyler's relationship with his mark evolves into an emotive one, as the boy reminded him of his dead son of the same age. Other than this aspect of the plot it was full of violence, which made it yet another typical action movie of Hollywood. Dhaka as a filthy city would satisfy the orientalist gaze of the audience of the west, but it is probably at odds with the Bangladeshi audience after watching it on Netflix, where the film was released on April 24, 2020.
Fahmidul Haq is visiting professor at the Dept of Film, Television and Theatre, University of Notre Dame, Indiana. He is a film scholar and critic of Bangladesh origin.