The worst thing that could be said about ‘Extraction’ is that it’s a completely generic action movie. That’s also the best thing that can be said about it in a statement that stretches the definition of the word “best” to its breaking point.
This is one of those completely disposable action flicks that used to go direct-to-video and now goes direct-to-VOD with a brief stop at theaters for those just desperate enough to watch anything featuring Bruce Willis. (Apparently, such viewers still exist.) It’s crap, but at least it’s satisfying crap that doesn’t pretend to be anything else.
Bruce Willis stars (well, cameos) as veteran CIA agent Leonard Turner, who disappears in the early going while tracking down a super secret device known as “The Condor.” It’s never precisely clear what the Condor is, aside from being described as “the ultimate hack,” something that would disrupt the entire internet and thus disrupt the whole planet. You know, the type of stupid MacGuffin used in stupid movies like ‘Extraction’. Kellan Lutz plays Willis’ son Harry, a burgeoning CIA agent who has spent his life desperately trying to live up to his father’s legacy in the hope of possibly earning his love and/or respect. He wants to be assigned the Condor case, but obviously his superiors won’t allow that to happen due to his highly personal connection to the job. So he forces his way into a partnership with the agent actually assigned to the mission, Victoria (Gina Carano), who once had a relationship with him. Yep, that means things will get steamy in addition to getting explosive. Or whatever.
It’s a story you’ve seen about a bazillion times before with characters you’ve seen even more often. There’s no attempt from director Steven Miller or the writers (including Max Adams, who was also responsible for the star-studded stinker ‘Heist’ earlier this year) to mask that or elevate the material. They know the exact type of disposable crap they’re making and offer no apologies about it. They’re also at least kind enough to not waste any time. The silliness unfolds at a tight 80-minute clip, shoving only the bare minimum amount of dialogue into the actors’ mouths to get to the maximum number of action scenes the filmmakers could afford. In accordance with genre cliché, the mystery takes the cast to a series of warehouses, shadowy clubs and empty streets where cheap dialogue and action scenes can be staged without fuss and even less muss.
The fight, boom-boom and bang-bang scenes are all fairly well executed. Nothing out of the ordinary appears, but at least the action beats that justify this stinker’s existence deliver the goods. You can actually see what’s happening during the set-pieces, which is nice because otherwise Miller embraces a visual style that is either underexposed or overexposed with no middle ground, or even justification for the aesthetic beyond the fact that it kind of looked cool at one point in the late ’80s.
Willis appears in only a few sequences, just enough for his name to get on the poster and in the VOD description to trick audiences into coming aboard. Since he’s being paid so little, he doesn’t bother to do much other than mumble in barely audible monotone and stick to a wooden impression halfway between movie star mystery and an offensively lazy lack of effort. The same performance could have come from a wax Willis dummy simply by taking out the meaningless dialogue. Carano once again cuts an imposing action presence, but struggles whenever she’s required to register any sort of emotion. She’s a good action figure, ideal for playing henchwomen. Lead roles are a stretch. As for Kellan Lutz, our wannabe action hero… well, just like everything else in ‘Extraction’, he’s fine. Not good. Not horrible. Just acceptable.
There are plenty of moments of idiocy and irritation in ‘Extraction’, but not enough to get pissy about. That stuff is essentially genre convention is this brand of low-rent potboiler. The flick never transcends its direct-to-VOD limitations like, say, ‘Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning’, but at least it never feels like an embarrassment.
It’s not like any potential viewer would ever confuse a movie like this with art before clicking “Play.” It is what it is and delivers that mediocrity efficiently. For those who enjoy low-rent thrills, you certainly could do worse than ‘Extraction’ even if you deserve better.