If I said to you, “It’s a straight-to-VOD movie called Extraction”, what would you think? Don’t worry, I already know the answer. You’d think: I bet that’s a cynical low-budget action vehicle, probably one starring some young buck Hollywood would like me to believe is the Next Big Thing. And you’d be right. You might also think: Is that Bruce Willis on the poster? Why is he associating himself with yet another of these horrible movies? And you’d be justified. In this one he plays a legendary CIA agent who gets himself kidnapped by some thickly-accented European terrorists. The production company behind Extraction, Grindstone Entertainment Group, are the very same folks responsible for previous execrable late-career Willis duds like Vice, The Prince and Fire With Fire. He continues to work with them for reasons entirely unclear to me, so perhaps he has actually been kidnapped after all.
In any case, Willis has the good sense to only show up at the beginning and end, appearing once or twice throughout the middle portion to look bored and miserable on a video screen, but largely handing the movie over to Kellan Lutz and Gina Carrano as fellow CIA agents with, all together now, a romantic history. It’s impressive, really, for two actors this ludicrously good-looking to have so little sexual chemistry with one another, but I guess that’s what happens when one of your stars is a former professional cage fighter and the other is… well, Kellan Lutz.
That’s the biggest problem with Extraction, which is saying a lot. It’s a star vehicle for a guy who is not, and will never be, a credible action star. One reason why: Kellan Lutz cannot act. Another: Kellan Lutz cannot fight. Neither of those things may seem mandatory in the action genre, which is commonly thought of as a squalid council estate in the glittering metropolis of cinema. But the most prolific contemporary action stars, your Jason Statham, your Scott Adkins, your Tony Jaa – they have something, and in most cases it’s a history of or experience in martial arts. You see them kick and punch and leap and spin with speed and precision and you think, acting. Jason Statham can only really play Jason Statham, but he plays Jason Statham so well that it hardly matters. Kellan Lutz isn’t playing anything. He has a face, a handsome one, and it’s stuck on an athletic body which should, theoretically, be good at this kind of thing. But when he moves it isn’t with fluidity and grace but the same emotionless rigidity with which he delivers his lines. He strikes me less as a flesh-and-blood human being than an android wearing one. He’s designed to follow instructions as closely as possible and sell movie tickets to teenage girls.
In Extraction Lutz plays Harry, the son of Willis’s aging spook. We’re supposed to believe, I think, that CIA tradecraft is inheritable. A few characters make a point of gushing about Harry’s genetics, and the movie makes a big deal out of his field agent training in a montage that eats up 5 of Extraction’s 83 minutes. He’s good, we’re repeatedly told, but he’ll remain a desk-jockey forever thanks to his string-pulling father, who has enough bureaucratic favours left over to keep him staring at a monitor for the rest of his career. This is to protect him, obviously, but it doesn’t do much for the audience, who, when Willis is kidnapped, are still forced to watch Harry go rogue and set out on the trail of his missing daddy and a device that could be linked to his capture. I’m pretty sure that device is called the Condor, although it’s been a few days since I saw the movie and it could just as easily be called the Albatross or something. Either way, it’s a briefcase that does Bad Stuff. As for the specific variety of Bad Stuff the Condor is capable of… I don’t recall that either. I think it has something to do with global telecommunications, but I didn’t really get hung up on it because, frankly, neither does the movie.
Extraction, which Steven C. Miller directed from a script by Umair Aleem, is less concerned about highfalutin ideas of plot or character development than it is with cramming as many derivative action sequences as possible into the already-slight running time. One of them, set in a biker bar, sees Lutz overpay for his drinks because he’s about to wrap a few bottles and bits of furniture around the other patrons. Another, in a strip club, has Gina Carano use her feminine wiles to seduce a baddie in a back room before the inevitable strobe-lit dancefloor fistfight. I often think I’d like to see Carano do more in the movies, but then again what else can she do? She’s a fighter first, a hottie second and an actor a distant third. But her line readings here are better than just about everyone else’s, including both Willis and D.B. Sweeney as a miscast agency station chief. Surely she’s better than this.
Having said that, we know Willis is better than this kind of material too, and that didn’t stop him, either. He clearly takes top billing so the producers could plaster his name and face all over the marketing materials, and it seems faintly offensive that he’d allow them to do that for what is essentially a glorified cameo. Still, here we are. You get what you pay for; the studio evidently didn’t pay much for Willis, so all they got was his bored, expressionless, increasingly-weathered face. And to watch Extraction in all it’s small-screen, low-budget glory, you’re not going to be paying much either. So you get a woeful, generic experience that brazenly achieves the absolute bare minimum necessary to shunt everyone involved to wherever it is they’re going. I have no idea where that’s supposed to be, but hopefully it’s as far away from me as possible.
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