Two films now available for streaming — “Extraction” on Netflix and “Rambo: Last Blood” on Amazon Prime — are two examples of how the lone wolf action hero is depicted.
The lone wolf hero is a staple of American action movies going back to vintage westerns and even dime novels of the 19th century. Some might even put Taos’ own Kit Carson in that mold. He, because it’s almost always a man embodying the macho stereotype, has a number of characteristics he shares with his brothers: He is often alone because he lost his family for various reasons, has a violent personality disorder that makes him unsuitable as a mate, possess a particular set of skills that sets him apart from complacent human beings, or harbors a deep seated bigotry toward anyone who has no idea what he’s been through, knows, or understands about the world.
Basically, he’s a glorified sociopath. But, he’s functional enough to be needed for one last deadly mission.
In former stunt director Sam Hargrave’s first time directorial effort, the graphic novel “Ciudad” by Ande Parks forms the inspiration for “Extraction,” a stuffed-to-the-rafters action picture starring Australian actor Chris Hemsworth (“Thor”).
The plot is thin as tissue paper but the stunt sequences are, to put it mildly, phenomenal, especially since most were practical effects and not a lot of digital. Several, including one timed out at 11 minutes, are long single-take sequences made up of numerous moving parts involving gunfights, hand-to-hand-combat, and wild car chases.
Hemsworth plays a highly sought after mercenary named Tyler Rake who is the one man who can do a job no matter the consequences, mayhem or body count. His back story, which we learn in bits and pieces as he’s dodging bullets, involved having once been married and a father but now is single due to a fatal illness and his inability to be around when needed. When alone, he contemplates his existence.
Like Capt. Willard (another lone wolf) in “Apocalypse Now,” Tyler is relieved when he is given a mission. This one involves extracting the son of a drug lord who has been kidnapped by another drug lord as part of a long running war in South Asia. So, in effect, there are no good guys. Tyler is the closest thing, but due to his absolute ruthlessness in accomplishing his task, he’s lucky he isn’t in prison somewhere. His only saving grace however is in the surprise friendship that develops between himself and his young charge, Ovi Mahajan (Rudhraksh Jaiswal), who becomes a symbol of the son he once had.
The movie, at almost two hours, gets high marks for its propulsive action, superior production design, effects, and photography. The acting is average but not bad or amateurish. Each actor puts in a highly committed performance even though the characters they portray are basically cardboard cutouts.
“Rambo: Last Blood,” on the other hand, is the worst of the franchise that began in 1982 with “First Blood” (minus the character’s name on the marquee).
In this movie directed by Adrian Grunberg, Sylvester Stallone’s former Green Beret and PTSD sufferer John Rambo has limped back to his late father’s southern Arizona horse ranch to find peace after fighting redneck sheriff’s deputies, Russian soldiers, Vietnamese communists, and Burmese militia. There, he lives with his dad’s housekeeper and his niece, both of whom are Hispanic.
This film is available in two versions. One includes a segment at the beginning showing Rambo helping a young couple escape a roaring flash flood. The other omits this sequence, which makes it the shortest in the franchise at 89 minutes long.
According to imdb.com
, the script went through numerous changes before Stallone himself, who has written screenplays and directed several of his movies including the movie previous to this simply called “Rambo” (2008), took over and shared writing credit with Matthew Cirulnick. The movie they wound up with is a cookie-cutter Rambo plot: Several incidents happen that offend the peaceful sensibilities of our hero and give him an excuse to open up a can of whoop-ass on the bad guys — using the most violent means possible. In this case, it’s a gang of Mexican drug and human traffickers.
In this movie, the motivation for an eventual bloodbath centers on the fate of a surrogate child.
It seems that Rambo’s nice, Gabriela (Yvette Monreal), has been feeling lost and needing to find out why her father abandoned her when she was a baby. When a friend finds out where he is, surprisingly just over the border, she concocts a scheme to confront him, despite Rambo’s advice to let go of the past and follow her much more promising future.
When the plan goes awry, Rambo steps in and you can guess what happens. The twist is that the gang goes after Rambo on his Arizona ranch by simply taking a well used tunnel under Donald Trump’s border wall like it’s a walk in the park. Another twist, which says something rather disturbing about Rambo himself, is that the hero has built a labyrinth of tunnels under his ranch outfitted with enough military grade weapons and ordnance to make a gun nut drool. It’s like he was looking for an excuse to put all that work to use and now he has it.
Stallone has said this would be his last Rambo movie. I hope so. This movie rambles around like a drunken sailor trying to find his car keys in the dark. No matter what happens, it’s all a bad idea.
“Extraction” is rated R for strong bloody violence throughout, language and brief drug use.
Tempo grade: B+
“Rambo: Last Blood” is rated R for strong graphic violence, grisly images, drug use and language.
Tempo grade: F
Also showing in the Big Screen @ Home series through April 16
Not rated, but does contain nudity, sexuality, violence and some drug use.
In this film from directors Juliano Dornelles and Kleber Mendonça Filho, Bacurau, a small settlement in Brazil's remote backcountry, is shaken by the death of its elderly matriarch. But something strange is happening in the village, and there's little time for mourning.
The water supply has been cut off, animals are stampeding through the streets, and empty coffins are turning up on the roadside. One morning, the villagers wake up to find their home has disappeared from satellite maps completely. Under threat from an unknown enemy, Bacurau braces itself for a bloody, brutal fight for survival.
Stars Sônia Braga and Udo Kier.
Be aware, there are scenes were townspeople, including children, are killed. This can be emotionally devastating, as the shootings are casually performed.
This film will be available to view now through May 8.
The Times of Bill Cunningham
Narrated by Sarah Jessica Parker, this documentary feature by Mark Bozek features incredible photographs chosen from over three million previously unpublicized images and documents from iconic street photographer and fashion historian Bill Cunningham.
Told in Cunningham’s own words from a recently unearthed 1994 interview, the photographer chronicles, in his customarily cheerful and plainspoken manner, moonlighting as a milliner in France during the Korean War, his unique relationship with First Lady Jackie Kennedy, his four decades at The New York Times and his democratic view of fashion and society.
This film will be available to view now through May 8.
EDITOR’S NOTE: The Mitchell Storyteller 7 Theatres in Taos remains closed for the time being in response to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. Until it reopens we will focus on movie reviews available online and through the TCA’s Big Screen @ Home series.