The Netflix original US thriller “Extraction” (previously titled Dhaka) premiered on April 24, and quickly became the most viewed movie with 90 million views in its first four weeks. The film garnered a lot of viewer interest in Bangladesh because the plot is set in the capital Dhaka. However, it wasn't long before the film drew criticism and debate for its inaccurate and stereotypical portrayal of Bangladesh and Bangladeshis.
The way Dhaka was shown in Extraction, the Netflix Original movie, it was ridiculous. They made it seem like Dhaka is full of slums which portrays how they look down to us. It's pathetic how they've shown the worst places in the world to be in Dhaka. Pathetic! #ExtractionNetflix
– Tazreen Alam (@AlamTazreen) April 26, 2020
The way Daca was shown in Extraction, the Netflix original movie, was ridiculous. They make it seem like Dhaka is full of slums that portray how they look down on us. It is pathetic that they have shown that the worst places in the world are in Dhaka. Pathetic!
What went wrong
Extraction stars Chris Hemsworth, famous for his participation in Avengers, and is the directorial debut of Sam Hargrave, famous Hollywood stunt coordinator. The protagonists, Tyler Rake (Chris Hemsworth) and Nik Khan (Golshifteh Farahani), accept a job as a mercenary to rescue the son of an Indian drug trafficker kidnapped by a Bangladeshi drug trafficker, who was being held somewhere in Dhaka. The film is based on Ciudad, a graphic novel written by Ande Parks set in the Paraguayan city of Ciudad del Este. Joe and Anthony Russo adapted it for the screen, but they set the story in a city in South Asia.
Although the film is set in Bangladesh for the most part, it was filmed predominantly in the Indian cities of Ahmedabad and Bombay, and also in Ban Pong, Thailand. However, some real images of Dhaka were used in the film, as Hargrave told on his Instagram account.
Dhaka in “Extraction” versus Dhaka in real life pic.twitter.com/OdaqNcMkcs
– m💀 (@mhaanbiizba) May 6, 2020
Daca in “Extraction” versus Daca in real life.
Bangladeshi film critics complained about the lack of research into local culture and the yellow filter used to portray Dhaka as a sick and exotic place. They also criticized Bangladesh being described as a failed state, as the plot includes a drug trafficker who causes a prominent Bangladeshi authority to deploy his army against the Hemsworth character.
Dhaka architect Aminul Islam Emon commented on the film after seeing it:
বেশি মারপিট। স্টোরি বলে কিছু নাই। স্টান্টবাজি দিয়ে কভার করার চেষ্টা।
বিদেশীদের চোখে ঢাকা শহরকে দেখার জন্যই আগ্রহ নিয়ে ছবিটা দেখলাম। বাংলাদেশিদের বেশির ভাগই এই ছবি দেখে অপছন্দ করবে। কারন ঢাকাকে খুব বাজে ভাবে দেখানো হয়েছে।
Too much violence. There is no compelling story. The action and risky scenes were trying to make up for this.
I watched the film with interest to see the city of Dhaka through the eyes of foreigners. Most Bangladeshis will not like this movie. Because Daca is portrayed in a very bad way.
Muqit AL Rahman, banker and movie buff, sent this review to Global Voices, noting that the local cast was inadequate:
How Dhaka has been portrayed can certainly irritate any Bangladeshis without a doubt. There are certain details which are at times annoying and at times funny e.g. many Bangladeshi characters speaking in Kolkata (from West Bengal, India) accent. Characters based in India having generic Bengali names such as Ovi and Saju is also unacceptable and last but not the least, the way Bangladeshi defense forces were portrayed in the movie was far from the truth.
Honestly speaking, in movies like that, such exaggerated and ultra-fanciful portrayal is definitely not new. For a movie, with such a simple plot, Dhaka could be any random city from some countries in Asia, South America and Africa. But I would like to see positively why they chose Dhaka.
এক্সট্রাকশন একটানা কুড়ি মিনিট দেখলাম। বাংলা ভাষা শুইনা বন্ধ কইরা দিছি… যা দেখছি এনাফ…
– Sifat Nazrul Islam (@ sifat2188) April 24, 2020
I could only watch the first 20 minutes of Extraction. Bengali accents are pathetic … enough with what I saw …
However, not all reviews were bad. Global Voices also interviewed writer and film critic Reza A. Rabbi by email, who saw the film as a nice action movie:
Screenplay, Actions and Locations are the areas where the director could show his magic and I think he did it pretty well. Especially the action sequences.
I did not see such raw and vibrant action sequences in any other Hollywood movie in recent past. Hargrave changed the original region – a city of Latin America where the events in the graphic book took place and replaced it with Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh. If you are a Bangladeshi, you will spot the discrepancies in a minute. From the accent of local people to the details of the police forces and everything in between will be unsettling for you.
But if you look at other Hollywood movies set in an international location, you will see that lack of proper details and resemblance is not a new thing and you rather have loved those movies if they were not set in your own backyard. Apart from some drone shots, the whole Dhaka part of the movie was shot in India and Thailand.
And here I have to give full marks to the team. Although it had its issues, the details of their portrayal of Dhaka was eye-catching. Even in a 5-second shot, there were both static or dynamic things happening in the background that reminds you that it's Dhaka that you are watching.
So, as per story and screenplay goes, ‘Extraction’ is just another enjoyable action film from Hollywood which had a pretty much cliche story – Mercenary, Kidnapping, Extraction etc. But all in all, it was enjoyable and you got a previously undiscovered location.
Script, actions and locations are the items in which the director could show his magic and I think he did very well. Especially the action sequences.
I haven't seen such vibrant action sequences in any other Hollywood movie in recent times. Hargrave changed the original region – a Latin American city where the events in the graphic book take place – and replaced it with Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh. If you are Bangladeshi, you will see the discrepancies in minutes. From the accent of the locals to the details of the Police and everything that goes in between will make you uncomfortable.
But if you see other Hollywood movies set in an international location, you will see that this lack of adequate and similar details is nothing new and rather they would not have loved those movies if they were not set in your own patio. In addition to some drone shots, the entire Dhaka part of the film was filmed in India and Thailand.
And here I am to qualify the team. Although he had his problems, the details of his representation of Dhaka were striking. Even in a shot of five seconds, static or dynamic things happened in the background that reminded you that what you saw was Dhaka.
So as for the story and script, ‘Extraction’ is just another nice Hollywood action movie with a story full of cliches: mercenaries, kidnappings, ransom, etc. But still, it was nice and you had a location that you hadn't discovered before.
The inclusion of this Bengali rap probably gave the film some authenticity:
(embed) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-3yA3OiuDSM (/ embed)
Bangladeshi Javed Iqbal also expressed himself positively on Facebook:
যে কোন পাবলিসিটিই ভাল পাবলিসিটি। (..) তারা দর্শকদেরকে নতুন লোকেশন দিতে চেয়েছে। নেটিফ্লিক্সের প্ল্যান, আগামী ৫ বছরে তারা ইন্ডিয়াতে দশ কোটি নতুন গ্রাহক চায়। তাই ওরা ইন্ডিয়ার ওপর প্রচুর টাকা ঢালছে। এই সিনেমাও সেটার একটা উদাহরণ। বাংলাদেশেও তাদেরকে আসতে হবে।
All publicity is good publicity (…) They wanted to give viewers a new location. Netflix plans to have a hundred million new subscribers in India in the next five years. So they are investing a lot of money in content related to India. This movie is an example of that. They must also come to Bangladesh.
In light of Extraction's success, Joe Russo has announced that a sequel is already in progress. However, Rafeul Hasan reminds Hollywood to take authenticity seriously next time:
Next time Hollywood centers a movie around Dhaka, they better get everything right down to the last details.
The next time Hollywood centers a movie around Dhaka, they better do everything better down to the last detail.