How Chris Hemsworth becomes a believable action hero in Extraction 2

Nathalie Tomada - The Philippine Star
How Chris Hemsworth becomes a believable action hero in Extraction 2
In Extraction 2, there’s an emotional why that had Chris Hemsworth’s character, the hardened black ops mercenary Tyler Rake, taking on another mission even after barely making it out alive from the events in the first film.

Chris Hemsworth goes harder on the action in Extraction 2. But he’s also not afraid to match the brawn with some display of emotion in the sequel to his action-thriller premiering on Netflix today.

No spoilers here, but there’s an emotional why that had his character, the hardened black ops mercenary Tyler Rake, taking on another mission even after barely making it out alive from the first film, which ranked as one of Top 10 Netflix-backed original movies of all time.

The 39-year-old Hollywood star talked more about Rake’s “pain and struggle” and how these made the character a believable action hero during his recent two-day visit to the Philippines with director Sam Hargrave. Manila served as the first stop of a world tour to drumbeat Extraction 2’s arrival on the international streaming platform.

But story time first: For some of us in the Philippine media, it felt like a full-circle moment to meet Hemsworth whom we were supposed to meet at a press junket in India for the first Extraction in March 2020. But as fate would have it, the trip was scrapped at the last minute as the first COVID-19 pandemic lockdown was imposed on the exact day we were scheduled to fly out.

Due to events that followed thereafter, it would take us a year to reclaim our passports. In hindsight, we couldn’t help but imagine that had it been pushed through, we could have gotten stranded for who knows how long and needed to be “extracted” from a foreign place. Extraction 1 ended up becoming one of the first experiences we had of the now ubiquitous Zoom presscon.

Chris in one of the ‘quieter’ scenes with co-star Golshifteh Farahani from the hard action-packed sequel

So, it felt strangely fitting that the first international premiere and media junket in the country should be Extraction 2. And nothing would beat seeing the Australian actor in person during the general presscon on June 5 and more intimately at a roundtable the day after, wherein one of the questions was what made him and Hargrave “resurrect” on screen Tyler Rake.

“We discussed the possibilities of where this character in this franchise could go while we were shooting the first one and we didn’t know if we were gonna have the opportunity to do a sequel,” Hemsworth began during a paired interview with Hargrave.

“Originally, the character died and that was it, as a finite conclusion to the film. In fact, we were pretty adamant about him dying.

“And then, we had all this wonderful feedback and enthusiasm about what we’re capturing and I said look, you’re crazy not to give yourself the option to have a sequel. So we shot that little tag where you see the blurry figure (of Rake), which gives the audience a hint that maybe he’s alive.”

In the first Extraction, Tyler was sent on a mercenary mission to Bangladesh to rescue Ovi, the teen son of a gang leader who was held captive by a rival drug lord. In the second one, he willingly accepted the job to extract a family being held in a high-security prison in Georgia.

When they started talking about how Tyler’s story would progress in the sequel, one of their realizations was that the first one never delved into why he does what he does, without fear of putting his life on the line, and even to the point of being “suicidal” in his approach.

“We realized we hadn’t really explored on screen the depth of the character,” he said. “There’s really only one scene in the (first) film where (Tyler was) talking to Ovi about his past and having lost a son and having left his son when he was dying and so on.”

“So, it almost was like doing an origin story again because we hadn’t told the audience all the details that we had up in our heads. That was really exciting and unique, I think, for a sequel,” he continued.

“Often you have your arc of it, your hero broken and then he has to learn the truth of who he is and why he’s there and become the hero he’s meant to be. Well, we still have the character fairly broken by the end of the (first) film. In fact, we killed him. So, we really had the opportunity to explore that in much greater detail (in the second film).”

Despite Rake’s capabilities to take down armies, his being an emotional wreck deep inside is what makes him relatable to audiences, according to Hemsworth.

“There’s the pain and the struggle. We all experienced that in different shapes and forms. I think the vulnerability to the character, which is very deep underneath this sort of tough exterior is, ultimately, what people empathize with and connect with,” he further pointed out.

Amid Rake’s soft spot being exposed in Extraction 2, the film doubled up on the stunt work and action-packed sequences.

On tackling the physical demands of Extraction 2, he admitted that his approach nowadays is different as compared to how he was earlier in his career.

“We’re older now so it hurts a bit more. I remember in my 20s doing things and not even warming up but just kind of smash yourself around and again, no worries at all. What you want to do is just impress the stunt coordinator, the director, whoever. It’s head first and everything.

“But that doesn’t really lean into the longevity of it all. There are certainly injuries I think I’ve had over the years that could have been prevented with a bit more intelligence and different approaches and, you know, warming up.”

Thus, these days, he’s more about “being honest” when things don’t quite feel right. “(Before) it’s the sort of fear of letting someone down and just being so ready to do whatever anyone said because you’re really thankful for the job that you can do some silly things,” he said.

“So (now) just speaking up when I think there could be a better way of doing it and better rehearsal time and again, like I said before, functionality and having in my training some of my movements… what I’m going to be doing in the film.”

Another important thing for him is that all the action and hard work he’s doing have to be reflected physically in his character.

“It was very important for me to make sure that you could see it on the guy’s face. And he wasn’t telling the audience, look how perfect his cardio is, he doesn’t even break a sweat,” he explained.

“We want it to be dirty, gritty and real.”

Nevertheless, one reporter noted the readers’ reactions on how his good looks managed to shine through the screen, his dirty and gritty self in Extraction 2 notwithstanding.

Hemsworth said he was giving all the credit to his director.

“Well, thank you readers for the feedback. You just gotta have Sam behind the cameras and make sure he’s capturing all your good angles, not the bad ones,” he quipped.

“You know, for Thor, for instance, there is a lot more pruning and prepping of the look and image. This was like, dirty it down and dirty it down, scars and blood and sweat and so on.”

Director Hargrave was quick to comment, “Chris is one of the few people who can actually try to make it look worse and looks better. I mean, look at him!”

“We lit him on fire, put blood on him but he looks more handsome, more macho and it’s ridiculous!” he added.

But Hemsworth just laughed it off and insisted, much to the amusement of the press during the roundtable interview, “It’s just amazing what some lighting and some good music will do.”

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