Extraction (Netflix, 15)
Verdict: Violent and derivative
Extraction. It seems fitting that a film that sounds like a dental training video should set your teeth on edge.
It stars Chris Hemsworth as that staple character of modern action movies, the former ‘special ops’ soldier, a veteran of the war in Afghanistan, now working as a freelance troubleshooter. And it is one giant cliché, powered by dozens of smaller ones, from beginning to end.
That is not to say it’s unwatchable. Extraction is not a bad example of its type, telling its highly derivative story with a certain swagger. The producers are Joe and Anthony Russo, who have four Avengers movies behind them as directors.
The former has also written the screenplay, and the brothers have given Sam Hargrave, their stunt co-ordinator on last year’s mega-hit Avengers: Endgame, his first shot at directing.
So, with the capable Hemsworth having played the mighty superhero Thor for the Russos, that makes four major alumni from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Given that pedigree, Extraction was always bound to be soaked with testosterone.
Moreover, if you don’t mind anonymous baddies being shot in the head at the rate of about one a minute, this might be your evening’s home entertainment sorted.
Chris Hemsworth (left) in Extraction plays the staple character of modern action movies, the former ‘special ops’ soldier, a veteran of the war in Afghanistan, now working as a freelance troubleshooter
I wouldn’t say Hemsworth’s character, Tyler Rake, quite eclipses Keanu Reeves’s John Wick as the silver screen’s most incontinent killer, but it’s a close-run thing.
On the other hand, Rake can never even begin to vie with Sam Spade as the greatest fictional hero named after a garden tool.
Rake is a laconic Aussie with a personal tragedy in his past that makes him cavalier about his own safety and, therefore, the ideal bloke to rescue kidnap victims around the world by shooting, stabbing, garrotting or throwing off random balconies every single one of their rotten captors.
His mission here is to free the 14-year-old son of a jailed Mumbai gangster, who has been nabbed by a ruthless Bangladeshi rival — ‘Dhaka’s very own Pablo Escobar’, no less.
This villain has the police and the army in his pocket, as well as a nasty habit of intimidating the city’s street kids into doing his dirty business. All this, not to mention a spot of double-crossing and one particular hard-knock antagonist, makes it a lot harder for Rake to sweep up the mess.
When he does, naturally it comes at a heavy cost, although not before he has found it in his wounded soul to become a kind of surrogate parent to his vulnerable charge, thereby coming to terms with his own true self. You know the sort of thing. It’s happening to all of us in lockdown.
Moffie (Curzon Home Cinema, 18)
Verdict: Sensitive and stylish
Moffie is also about masculinity, but set in 1981 in a South Africa brutalised by apartheid and at war with communist forces in neighbouring Angola.
Nick (Kai Luke Brummer) is a reserved young army conscript and at first it seems as if his country’s institutionalised racism will be the theme. But the clue is in the title; Moffie is a crude Afrikaans word best translated as ‘faggot’. The army encourages intense homophobia, which becomes an uncomfortable issue for Nick as he forms an attachment to fellow rookie Stassen (Ryan de Villiers).
Director Oliver Hermanus has mixed-race lineage, so it feels significant that he has chosen to address this form of bigotry rather than the one more commonly addressed in pictures about apartheid-era South Africa. Better still, he has done so with style and sensitivity. Moffie is worth seeing.
Moffie is also about masculinity, but set in 1981 in a South Africa brutalised by apartheid and at war with communist forces in neighbouring Angola
The Go-Between (Mubi, PG)
Verdict: A classic adaptation
And so, especially if you’ve never watched it, is The Go-Between, newly available on the streaming service Mubi.
I’ve always thought L.P. Hartley’s novel a better story about forbidden love across the class divide than D.H. Lawrence’s more famous Lady Chatterley’s Lover. Set in the summer of 1900, it is also a powerful coming-of-age story.
Joseph Losey’s gorgeous 1971 film adaptation stars a luminous Julie Christie, a rugged Alan Bates, and Edward Fox doing his very best Edward Fox impression.
It is scripted by Harold Pinter, too, although no line is better —nor more resonant in our current predicament — than the one with which Hartley opened the novel: ‘The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.’ Indeed.
Joseph Losey’s gorgeous 1971 film adaptation of The Go-Between stars a luminous Julie Christie, a rugged Alan Bates, and Edward Fox doing his very best Edward Fox impression
Cool Clint and classic Cleese: Brian Viner’s top 100 films (part 5)
Here are the latest ten in the list of my 100 favourite English-language films, all of which are available to stream, download or order on DVD.
As ever, I invite — encourage! — feedback ([email protected]).
60 The Innocents (1961)
As ‘definite article’ horror films go, I rate this more highly than The Omen, The Exorcist and The Shining. It’s a truly creepy adaptation of the Henry James story The Turn Of The Screw, a great psychological chiller.
59 In The Heat Of The Night (1967)
I confess that I quibble with its Best Picture Oscar, in a year that produced The Graduate and Bonnie And Clyde. Nonetheless, it’s a true classic. Rod Steiger was never better and nor was Sidney Poitier, which is saying plenty.
58 Chinatown (1974)
Roman Polanski’s enduringly brilliant neo-noir thriller set in 1930s Los Angeles is a fine example of cinematic teamwork: his direction, Robert Towne’s majestic screenplay, and Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway on top form.
57 Goldfinger (1964)
I’ve allowed myself only one Bond film in my list and it had to be this … especially as we’ve just lost Honor Blackman, the sassiest, sultriest Pussy Galore imaginable. Add the definitive 007 in Sean Connery, the best theme song and the greatest henchman in Oddjob … unsurpassable.
56 The Good, The Bad And The Ugly (1966)
‘The best-directed film of all time’ according to Quentin Tarantino. I wouldn’t go that far, but I can’t think of a better spaghetti western, or of any film more suited to Clint Eastwood’s favoured screen persona, the laconic hero.
There’s no better spaghetti western, or of any film more suited to Clint Eastwood’s favoured screen persona, the laconic hero
55 Dr Strangelove (1964)
Plenty of movies vie for the title of Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece; he was a remarkable filmmaker. But for me, it’s this glorious Cold War satire in which Peter Sellers plays three characters, all to comic perfection.
54 Kes (1969)
My wife would never forgive me if I didn’t list this. Ken Loach filmed it in the streets she grew up on, near Barnsley, South Yorkshire, and her mum knew Barry Hines, on whose novel A Kestrel For A Knave it is based. It’s a superb slab of social realism.
53 Goodfellas (1990)
Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci and director Martin Scorsese got a lot of love when they reunited last year for The Irishman. But as gangster films go, it’s not in the same class as this one, for which all three were at the top of their game.
52 A Fish Called Wanda (1988)
It was a masterstroke by co-writer and star John Cleese (pictured) to coax Ealing Studios veteran Charles Crichton out of semi-retirement to make this heist comedy, and together they struck gold. It’s a joy.
In John Cleese’s 1988 film a con artist named Wanda tries to double-cross her lover and the two members of her diamond heist gang. Her plan goes wrong when she falls in love
51 Double Indemnity (1944)
Billy Wilder’s wonderful film noir, which prompted Alfred Hitchcock to say that ‘the two most important words in motion pictures are Billy and Wilder’. Its failure to win an Oscar, though nominated for seven, is one of the all-time awards travesties.
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