Extraction 2 Director On That 21-Minute Oner, Landing Idris Elba, And Death By Gym Equipment [Exclusive Interview] – /Film
This post contains spoilers for “Extraction 2.”
2020 was a tricky time for lovers of blockbuster cinema as movie theaters all around the world were shut down. Sure, smaller movies were being released on VOD, but for those of us that love the big action movie experience? It was a wasteland. Fortunately, director Sam Hargrave’s “Extraction” came to the rescue on Netflix several weeks into the pandemic lockdown to scratch that itch. Produced by “Avengers: Endgame” directors Joe and Anthony Russo, and with Chris Hemsworth at the center as action man Tyler Rake, we got those big-scale action goods from the comfort of home. The film was a big hit, so naturally Rake is back in a sequel, “Extraction 2.”
Hemsworth returns as Tyler Rake (this ain’t a prequel, folks!) despite barely surviving the events of the first movie. After months of rough recovery, our man is tasked with another deadly mission: rescuing the family of a ruthless Georgian gangster from the prison where they’re being held. The mission at hand gave Hargrave lots to work with, delivering audiences even more insane combat, gun fights, and, yes, wild action sequences.
I had the good fortune of speaking with Hargrave in honor of the movie’s release on Netflix. We discussed how they put together that crazy one-take action sequence, why Idris Elbra agreed to such a small role, the future of the franchise, and much more.
Note: This interview has been lightly edited for clarity and brevity.
‘All I can bring is my point of view’
I know you’re going to get asked about this a bunch. So there’s this big one-take action sequence that has been much hyped in the film. As I understand it, Joe Russo’s script just says something along the lines of “the coolest one-take action sequence ever.” How much of this was in the script, and how much of it was you just reading that and going, “All right, well now I’ve got to plan the coolest oner ever”?
It was a little bit of both, meaning that the locations, the set pieces, were established in the script. We knew that it was going to be some crazy action, extracting the family from a prison, and then it was going to transition to a car chase. Then from the car chase, it would end up on a train, and they’d end up getting the extraction to a boat and they’re out. Exactly how long that was going to take and what happened in between those moments and those connective tissues, that was all on me and the production team and the stunt team. So bit a little bit of both. It was on the page to give us inspiration, and then we had to start doing what we do best and come up with some wild, crazy stuff.
Look, I don’t want to speak for anyone else. For me, the prison fight element of that was the coolest part. Immediately what came to mind for me was the prison fight from “The Raid 2.” Was that a direct influence? Did you feel like you had to try to match that, or was that just not in your mind during that part?
No, I definitely, as a fan, have seen that fight scene and love it. It was amazing the stuff that they did, that Gareth [Evans] did there is amazing. We differentiated ourselves a little bit because it’s in the mud and it’s just its own thing. What’s wild is if you gave 10 different directors this same sequence, you would get 10 wildly different, super entertaining versions of the script. I think that’s one of the really fun things about this art form. There’s not necessarily about good versus bad, it’s just different. It’s each person’s unique point of view, and all I can bring is my point of view. Yes, I’m heavily influenced by all the people that have come before, because you can’t help but watch their stuff and be inspired. Then I try to internalize that, and then with my own voice and my own lens, I try to present how I see this action scene being exciting and hopefully, audiences respond.
It’s not a secret that Idris Elba is in this movie.
Correct, it’s out in the world.
What I will ask you is, let’s just say, he’s not in it a lot. So how did you get him to agree to be in this for a very limited amount of time?
Well, luckily, he and Chris Hemsworth go way back to the Marvel Universe [in the “Thor” films], and so they’re friends. Once we had this character in the script that showed up and initiated some things and then shows up a little later with a bit of a tag on, we knew that the idea or the potential to expand this “Extraction” universe is there’s a lot of that potential inside this character. So we needed to cast someone with charisma and a skill set that they could stand on screen opposite Chris Hemsworth and hold their own, which is no small task. So when we had that in mind for this character, when Chris reached out, he is like, “Hey, I know a guy who could do this.” When Idris said yes, we were all blown away and really excited to work with him. Yes, he’s not on screen a lot, but when he’s there, he makes a significant impact on the story,
As is always the case with him. He’s just one of those guys.
‘There has been some talk of where this could go’
His final scene is pretty important. That sets up some stuff. It leads me to believe, more than the first one, that you guys absolutely have a third one in mind. How much talk has there been? Do you guys already have a story in mind?
There is definitely an appetite at Netflix and AGBO for an extension of this Tyler Rake story. What exactly that is, I am not aware of at this moment, but I know there has been some talk of where this could go. I know everybody who is involved in this project as fans love the idea of Tyler Rake continuing. Perhaps, who knows if Idris is involved, that’d be amazing and see these two expand this “Extraction” universe. What that is exactly, I can’t say at this time.
Fair enough. I’ve seen a lot of action movies. I’ve seen a lot of guys killed in a lot of ways. On more than one occasion in this movie, guys get killed with gym equipment. How did you come up with that? Like, “Hey, let’s just kill some guys with some really heavy weights.”
Well, a lot of it is directly related to the set piece. It wasn’t like we decided, “Hey, let’s find a cool way to kill somebody with gym equipment. Let’s make sure we get that in the movie.” It was like, “All right, what’s the organic, story-based way to get Tyler Rake from A to B?” We wanted to get him from the bottom to the top. We’re like, “Oh, you could have a gym. There could be a gym up here with a nice view of the city. That’d be fun because it gives us a lot of action opportunities. I’ve always wanted to do this,” so it starts to organically come together.
Then what I try to do is hire the best minds in the stunt world that I know of, and then we just start riffing and let the best idea win. There were so many other deaths by gym equipment that came up. We tried to land on the ones that were at least the most entertaining to us as a collective group. I don’t know, I think they’re pretty fun and pretty special.
‘We really wanted to focus on the emotional connection and the depth of this character’
I love the first “Extraction.” It gave me that action movie blockbuster thing I needed during Covid, and was really special to me in that way. I remember when you guys announced the second one, I was like, “Are they going to do another simple man on a mission story?” In this one, you made a very active choice to be like, “No, we’re going to make Tyler a very three-dimensional character who’s not just a man on a mission.” How did you guys go about deciding on that approach?
I’m glad you felt that, because it was very important to me, and I know to Chris, to make Tyler Rake a three-dimensional, relatable, vulnerable human being. Yes, he is a badass right up there with the likes of James Bond, if you will, because he can take care of business and he’s got these missions that he does. But a lot of it comes from a place of guilt or shame over his past, and he’s trying to just do better. I think a lot of the relatability of this character and the emotional vulnerability is what draws people in. You go like, “Oh, this guy isn’t just a killer. There’s a soft side.” In that way, I think you can relate to him and be like, “Oh, we’ve all maybe done or said things that we’ve maybe regret. How do you make up for that and do better in the future?”
I think that’s one of the really fun things about these storytelling opportunities is to have these people go through things that, of course, dramatize versions of real life, but in ways that you can relate to and give you inspiration or hope, in a way. Maybe if you’re in that situation, there’s a way for you to get out of it and do something better. So for Tyler, I think, it’s beautiful that he’s using this energy that he has to save the innocent — or maybe sometimes not so innocent, in the case of Sandro — but he’s believing in these people like he has to find belief in himself. He tries to pull them out of these dangerous situations to give them another chance. So I think, yeah, I’m glad you noticed that. We really wanted to focus on the emotional connection and the depth of this character, and not just make him a two-dimensional action hero.
One last quick one for you. How many takes did it take to get Chris to stick that ax in the tree?
Well, I tell you, got a little movie magic here: That was a digital ax. It was one of those things where the sun was going down. We were like, all right, let’s give it a couple of tries. Truthfully, we did one where the camera was locked off and we let him throw it, and it just didn’t have the movement that I wanted, because I love a moving camera. So we decided it’s probably not prudent to have him throwing an ax right at our camera operator who we love, so let’s do it digitally. Yeah, that was a digital ax. So first take, we nailed it.
“Extraction 2” is now streaming on Netflix.