There’s a refreshing lack of fucking around to the two-fisted direct-to-VOD action picture Extraction. Director Steven C. Miller keeps the movie lean, racing through the Max Adams/Umair Aleem screenplay in just over 80 minutes, holding expositions and transitions to a minimum. This is a low-budget production, so it doesn’t feature many elaborate fight scenes or chases; instead it has just a few short, explosive ones, strung together by tense stand-offs in spare rooms. Extraction’s also not, by any stretch of the imagination, “good.” But at least it doesn’t waste everybody’s time.
Bruce Willis top-lines Extraction, in what amounts to a glorified cameo. He plays Leonard Turner, a veteran CIA agent who disappears early in the story while investigating a device called The Condor—“the ultimate hack,” created by cyber-terrorists to disrupt the internet and loose anarchy across the Earth. Kellan Lutz plays Leonard’s son Harry, also a spook, who’s been training for years to get out into the field but keeps getting secretly blocked by his dad. Defying orders from his immediate superior (played by D.B. Sweeney), Harry takes his own discredited research into The Condor and hijacks the agency’s mission, attaching himself to an operative named Victoria (Gina Carano) with whom he had a fling years ago.
So what we have here is kind of a reverse Taken situation: a son with “a special set of skills” using all of his craftiness and brute strength to save his father. There are a few twists along the way, but for the most part Extraction is about Harry and Victoria doggedly pursuing the organization that claims to have abducted Leonard—while trying to keep their operation as secret as possible, since they’re violating multiple regulations. In the grand tradition of 1980s straight-to-video movies, the heroes’ search keeps leading them to nightclubs and warehouses, where there’s plenty of room for the camera to swoop about during tussles with the bad guys.
The acting is uniformly terrible in Extraction (even from Willis, who puts on his basic “muted monotone” expression in the opening scene, and apparently wasn’t paid enough to change it). In a way, though, the stiffness is part of whatever meager charm this film musters. The same can be said of the dialogue, which strains to be punchy. One of Harry’s bosses, Theodore Sitterson (Steve Coulter), gets the best bad lines, calling Leonard “a washed-up skidmark of an agent” and waving off a technological description of The Condor by asking for an explanation aimed at “those of us who didn’t grow up jerking off to a science magazine.” But that’s about the level of wit that every other character aspires to, as well.
In short, Extraction is exactly the kind of motion picture it promises to be: a dopey shoot-’em-up that’s competent enough to be watchable and silly enough to provide at least a couple of cheap kicks. It’s the kind of movie where officious administrators bark orders at their remotely stationed underlings via video screens, and where the main protagonist overpays a bartender for a bottle of booze because he’s about to toss some asshole into the jukebox and he wants to cover the damage. It is, in every sense of the word, generic.
A lot about Extraction feels more like a prospectus than a piece of cinema. Willis has clearly been hired just so the producers could plaster his name and face all over the marketing materials; and all of the non-Willis/non-action scenes have been constructed to meet the minimum requirements needed to push the story ahead. But there’s something almost admirable about how brazenly chintzy everything is. The movie’s title could just as easily be You Get What You Pay For.