Sam Hargrave’s Extraction 2, the sequel to the surprisingly fun though abundantly flawed action film that was Extraction, is all about getting to the next extended fight sequence or shootout. Starring Chris Hemsworth as the goofily named Tyler Rake and held together with a story that is about as sturdy as chewing gum, it is an imperfect film that still taps into silly spectacle when it tosses all its more plodding elements aside. For every moment you may roll your eyes at the wooden dialogue that feels like the actors are reading it for the first time, you can’t help but smile at the spectacle that plays out before you. If only it could have also been seen on the big screen rather than just being the modern version of a straight-to-TV movie.
In what is by no means a recent trend, Extraction 2 is the latest film to be relegated primarily to streaming on Netflix when it would have benefited from an actual theatrical release. While not as good as this by any means, it recalls last year when Prey was inexplicably sent straight to Hulu despite the fact that it also should have been released in theaters for its impressive stunts and stellar reinvention of the science fiction series to be experienced in all its glory. While well-crafted films are capable of playing just fine on the small screen, there is still something that is lost when not in the theater. Some of it is the communal aspect as coming together to take in a frequently wild ride of a film and hear the collective reaction to what happens can be good fun. However, even more than that, it is about seeing a film the way it was meant to be seen. There is a reason why we go out to see action movies in theaters, and it is to really feel the scope of what is being achieved. While Extraction 2 is not comprehensively great, with many points where it grinds to a screeching halt, the key sequences boasting solid action that it builds around are done a disservice when not displayed on the big screen.
After resurrecting Rake, who managed to defy what was almost certain death at the end of the last movie, the film wastes little time in getting to its main attraction. Though it is not actually a true seamless take by any stretch of the imagination, especially compared to a wonderful film like Victoria that does this from start to finish or the beautifully bloody brawl in Atomic Blonde that really deserves more praise, it still works well enough that you can overlook the many noticeably visible tricks used to hide cuts. Credit must be given to the stunt team for the way it is all choreographed as it is this which makes it thrilling. The issue is that, even as there are some wonderful moments when watching it like when Hemsworth continues fighting while still on fire, there remains a persistent sense that this would be so much better in a theater. Much of the film is frenetic in all the best ways, but it will always feel more slight than spectacular as compared to what it could have been if given the chance to fully experience it.
There is already a greater beauty to an image projected on a larger canvas and the violent dance stunt choreographers bring to life deserves to be given this treatment. While Extraction 2 was never going to be on the same level as this, the recent John Wick 4 proved to be one of the year’s biggest hits in theaters for a reason. There is a demand for action films to play on the big screen and to send them straight to streaming is to miss out on this. That this seems to be the strategy for even the most anticipated of Netflix releases beyond just action, as was the case with the sharp yet silly Glass Onion last year, remains unfortunate. Cinema of all kinds is best taken in on the big screen and the experience of seeing an action film in such a fashion is one of the real pleasures of going out to the theater. Even when it’s a far cry from a masterpiece, the recent trajectory of going straight to streaming means we lose the full vision.
It would have been infinitely more dynamic to see Hemsworth do battle while precariously on top of a building where it felt truly vast as opposed to miniscule. Even the mediocre action thriller that was last year’s The Gray Man could have benefited from such a release as its small redeeming moments like the fight in the hospital with the magnificent Dhanush would have carried more weight. Instead, an already quick scene feels even more inconsequential when not given the best presentation it could have gotten. There is a reason Tom Cruise is currently fighting to get the upcoming Mission: Impossible film on as many IMAX screens as he can. Action is just better on the big screen and any hope Netflix has at making a big hit with actual cultural staying power beyond their own metrics is hindered by not recognizing this.
So while the chance for Extraction 2 to get a theatrical release has come and gone, future action releases from the streamer ought to be given at least something more. More than just sequels in this series, as the ending of this film sets up for more to come, there are a whole host of upcoming action or action-adjacent movies that would benefit from a wider theatrical release. Just to name a few, They Cloned Tyrone, The Killer, Rebel Moon, The Old Guard 2 and, potentially, a sequel to the aforementioned Atomic Blonde are all movies audiences deserve a chance to see in the theaters. The communal experience of seeing movies in the distinct yet still malleable action genre is worth getting to do. While it is likely that this plea will go nowhere as streamers continue to gobble up talent and then dump even the most exciting of movies onto their platforms that are at the mercy of the algorithm, one still hopes that there is room made for preserving the joyous experience of going to the cinema together.
Extraction 2 is available to stream on Netflix.