Have you ever thought about what got you interested in guns in the first place? For me, growing up in a small apartment in a big city with no access to guns and hunting, it was definitely action movies. But when I watch most action movies from the ’80s and ’90s right now, I can’t help but cringe. Never-ending magazines, goofy shooting techniques, people flying in the air after getting shot – all the good stuff. That is why I like watching movies that take firearms and gun handling seriously, the most recent example being “Extraction” from Netflix.
I am not going to recount the plot in detail. If you did not watch the movie, all you need to know is: Chris Hemsworth is on a mission in Dhaka, the capital city of Bangladesh, to rescue a kidnapped son of an Indian drug lord and things go wrong. While one can argue that the plot of this movie leaves a lot to be desired, I want to concentrate on the part that I actually enjoyed – the action.
Action in this movie is really immersive, thanks to a lot of unconventional filming methods used by director Sam Hargrave, who started his career in Hollywood as an actor, stuntman, and later stunt coordinator, much like Chad Stahelski, director of John Wick.
In the best action scenes, the movie relies on the long takes where the actor’s proficiency with guns becomes extremely important. A fumbled reload or sloppy gun handling will ruin an entire take. That is why the creators of “Extraction” took an actor’s training very seriously. According to Thayr Harris Extraction Second Unit Director / Stunt Coordinator: “The majority of the training (fight and weapons work) was done as a collective with the Stunt Team”.
For the final sequence (the shootout on the bridge) the crew invited a well-known and experienced firearms instructor, Craig “Chili” Palmer. You might’ve seen him in Viking tactics videos along with Kyle Lamb.
Craig “Chili” Palmer served 25 years in the U.S. Army as Special Operations with 13 deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan before becoming an instructor at the SIG Sauer Academy. On his Instagram page, you can get a behind-the-scenes look at how “extraction” was filmed.
According to Mr. Palmer himself, he trained both main characters played by Chris Hemsworth and Randeep Hooda, as well as “some of the foreign stunt guys and stunt guys that played as the Merc team.” He also was on location during the filming process in Thailand and had a chance to interject and correct little mistakes on set. Unfortunately, that is not always the case – I worked as a technical advisor on a movie, and the director would not allow advisors to be on set which led to many silly mistakes in the final cut of the movie.
But in this case, the military advisor was always there and it really shows – you can notice little things like the main character practicing good muzzle discipline when he comes across civilians; characters quickly transitioning shoulders when they have to shoot from different sides of the cover, smooth reloads.
But training actors is only part of the problem, you also need to pick the right guns and equipment for them. And that turned out to be a real challenge. One of the longest sequences in the movie was filmed in India, where getting weapons is extremely difficult.
I had a chance to talk to ISS armorer Ron Licari who worked on set, and here is how he described the weapon situation in India: “I can tell you that anything shot in India was all airsoft or rubber weapons as we couldn’t import any real weapons into that country.”
In the video below you can see how it actually looked in the movie, and I would never think that it was filmed without real weapons.
Surely, both airsoft and rubber guns “shots” were greatly enhanced with CGI, and naturally, I wanted to ask if actual weapons were used at any point during filming, or was it all CGI?
Again, Ron Licari cleared it up for TFB readers: “To answer your question about were blanks ever used in the making of the movie? I can tell you for sure we used a lot of blanks in this movie whenever it was safe and possible to do so. We also used a lot of airsoft weapons for the close combat scenes.
Yes, there was a lot of CGI in the movie but we shot up a lot of blanks as well. It was a good mix. However, that’s not to say that they didn’t enhance our blank gunfire as well.
The rubber gun problem explains why in many scenes local special forces have their AKs with a selector lever “ON safe” which makes no sense when they’re clearing the building. Well, you can’t take a rubber gun OFF safe and you can’t hide a selector, so I would say it is not really a mistake, just an inevitable result of strange Indian gun laws.
Fortunately, other action scenes were filmed outside of India where proper weapons were available. Weapons in the movie were provided by a very well-known company called ISS (Independent Studio Services), which worked on many famous films like Sicario, The Highwaymen, Triple Frontier, Den of Thieves, and many others.
The selection of weapons used in a movie is pretty impressive. Throughout the story, the main character is using a Glock 17 pistol, several basic AKs, a 40 mm M79 grenade launcher, and two really nice-looking AR-15s.
It was hard to identify the rifles, so I asked someone who had to know – Larry Zanoff, assistant manager of the Weapons Department at Independent Studio Services (ISS), who worked on this movie. You probably know him as a co-host of “The Hollywood weapons” and recently he was featured on our TFB podcast.
According to Larry Zanoff, at the beginning of the film, Chris Hemsworth is using a BCM AR-15 with KMR-A10 handguard, equipped with an EoTech holographic sight, magnifier, AAC M4-2000 suppressor, IR-laser and BCMGUNFIGHTER™ Vertical Grip.
This rifle is abandoned during one of the chase scenes, and for the final shootout, the main character is using a variant of Daniel Defense M4 V1, equipped with Leupold Mark 4 High Accuracy Multi-Range Riflescope (HAMR) with Delta-Pro reflex sight on top, Gemtech Halo suppressor and a tactical light.
Weapons were prepped in LA by another ISS armorer, George Garrity Cavallo, who set up the rifles with the accessories, and I am sure any AR-15 fan would agree that he did a phenomenal job.
The main antagonist-turned-friend Saju is using a suppressed MP5 and an H&K P30 pistol in the final scene, which immediately brought me back to the time when I worked with an Indian special unit “Black cats”. This character reminded me of a lot of that unit – equipment, weapons, black uniform, everything looked very familiar. Larry Zanoff confirmed my suspicion, ISS looked at the “Black cats” as an inspiration when they picked the gear and weapons, and the final result is just spot on.
The choice of weapons for supporting characters is also quite impressive. Frankly, when Nik Khan showed up to the final shootout with a SCAR-H, I immediately fell in love with her. Cold, calculated, and very effective – a trusty SCAR-H was just a perfect extension of the character.
You also can’t ignore a beautiful H&K SL-8 used by the police colonel. In fact, the only real gun-related mistake in the movie is connected to that rifle. When police colonel is shooting at the characters on the bridge from a long distance (at least several hundred meters) we first hear the shot and then see the impact.
That can’t happen in real life since the 5.56 bullet travels three times the speed of sound, so if you’re on the receiving end, you first see and hear the impact, and the sound of the shot comes later. That mistake probably happened during the sound editing process, which happens pretty often.
But other than that, the movie demonstrates a good depiction of the chaos and destruction that ensues when motivated individuals start shooting each other on the streets with small arms and grenade launchers, suddenly turning a peaceful city into a warzone.
I don’t know if we will remember “Extraction” for many years to come like we did a lot of action movies from the ’80s, but it probably sets a new milestone when it comes to realistic gun handling, choice of weapons for the characters, and the way action scenes are filmed.
So far it looks like “Extraction” will be most watched Netflix original film ever and Russo brothers, who wrote the screenplay for this movie, already signed up to make Extraction 2, so I am sure we will enjoy some quality gunplay in part two.
Let’s hope other directors in the industry will follow Sam Hargrave’s footsteps and we, gun guys, would have a chance to enjoy our favorite weapons in films and well-filmed gunfights more often. And maybe some people in a new generation of gun owners would say: “I got interested in guns after I watched the Extraction”.