For a movie with a definitive title like The Extortion, director Martino Zaidelis’ latest mystery-thriller has done a really impressive job. It is about Extortion, of course, but it is so much more than that. With a running time of nearly two hours, the movie does go off the rails at times, but its landing is pretty smooth overall. Even though it ties up all the threads pretty neatly, you might feel a little lost by the end. In this recap, I will try to help you out with that by taking a closer look at The Extortion.
Plot Synopsis: What Happens In ‘The Extortion’?
It begins with a man named Novak randomly getting shot in broad daylight in the middle of the road. We clearly see the face of the killer, who gets away in a car. Now coming to the main plot- commercial airline pilot Alejandro has a seemingly normal life in Argentina. At fifty-eight, he is still at the top of his game at his job. His wife, Carolina, is an air hostess at the same airline, and the two of them are very much in love with each other. Other than the obvious job-related life risk, Alejandro’s life is free of any danger. But since this is thriller cinema, Alejandro is not allowed to have a hassle-free life after all. So on a Saturday morning, two men from the National Intelligence Service come to his house and almost forcefully take Alejandro with them under the pretext of some kind of investigation. An understandably baffled Alejandro has no other option but to comply and go with them.
What Do The National Intelligence Service Want From Alejandro?
Obviously, the guys who came to pick up Alejandro are minions, subordinates to the main guy, who goes by the name Saavedra, who appears to be quite well-spoken and non-threatening by looks. Alejandro is put under a polygraph test, where he initially doesn’t have any difficulty until two major secrets about his life come out in the open. He is going deaf in his right ear, which makes him unfit to continue with his job, but he has still managed to get a completely fit certificate from his doctor, thanks to having a hush-hush romantic affair with her. Saavedra happens to have all the evidence to basically ruin Alejandro’s life, but he will spare the pilot in exchange for one little thing: Alejandro has to take a suitcase to Madrid, and that’s all. As a viewer, I am sure you can understand that this is definitely not going to be that simple, but the character is going to fall into the trap as an inevitable cinematic trope, and that eventually happens.
Why Does Alejandro Get Detained By The Airport Police?
As I just said, the job is not as easy as it sounds. But after initial hiccups, Alejandro gets pretty much settled at his unwanted side job. The anxiety and guilt inside still continue to bother him, along with the stress of hiding all this from Carolina and all of his friends and colleagues. As per Saavedra’s instruction, Alejandro is supposed to put his own suitcase in his airport locker, where he would find the suitcase he is supposed to deliver, not to mention both suitcases look identical. After landing in Madrid, Alejandro has to take the suitcase to the airport bathroom and hand it over to this guy called Porchietto, who just happens to be the killer from the very first scene of the movie. After giving the suitcase away, all Alejandro needs to do is take another identical-looking suitcase from Porchietto and come back like nothing ever happened. Everything was going fine until one day Alejandro got detained by his own airport police and was asked to open the suitcase by this guy named Mario. He obviously doesn’t know the code, as it is the suitcase he has taken from Porchietto, and a situation like this hasn’t arisen before. However, Alejandro pretends not to remember the code, but Mario has come prepared, and he does succeed by the end. There is nothing problematic found in the suitcase other than clothes that wouldn’t fit Alejandro, so Mario tries to get the truth out of him. But Alejandro had a preset SOS with Saavedra, and he uses that upon getting the first chance, and it instantly works. Mario gets interrupted by a call regarding an unavoidable airport matter that he needs to fix right away, and when he goes away, Saavedra comes and takes Alejandro away.
How Is Alejandro’s Friend Fernando Involved In All These?
After his tryst with Mario, Alejandro gets naturally spooked and, to some extent, angry at Saavedra, who does everything to convince Alejandro that it is still alright and things like airport police are nothing in front of the Intelligence Service. Saavedra also reminds Alejandri that this is not a matter of choice, as he still holds power over him. Alejandro gets back to his usual business, and then one day, he finds out something strange, and the movie finds its first of many twists.
I thought the character of Fernando was only meant to be a stock, playing one of Alejandro’s closest friends and colleagues. But midway through the movie, it is revealed that Fernando is also in the suitcase delivery business, just like Alejandro. The only difference is that while Alejandro is being blackmailed, Fernando is getting money out of it, which is absolutely essential for him because his divorce has left him in a financial ditch. Also, unlike Alejandro, Fernando doesn’t think much about it and has comparatively lesser anxiety.
Right before these two pilots are going to do a regular suitcase delivery and are about to fly in the same place, Mario, aka the Airport Police person, gives Alejandro a visit and hands him over a key so that Alejandro can open the suitcase and see what he has gotten into. While Fernando is not very enthusiastic about the idea of knowing “what’s in the suitcase,” Alejandro can’t contain his curiosity and goes ahead. I was not surprised when the contents inside the suitcase turned out to be bundles of money; drugs would have been too obvious.
How Does Carolina Get To Know About Alejandro’s Secret?
I thought one of the main reasons Alejandro let himself be blackmailed was to save his wife from getting heartbroken. Because despite the fact that he cheated, his love for Carolina is also quite evident throughout the movie. It makes him a flawed man, but not particularly an evil one, at least in my book. Another major highlight of the character is his burning desire to make everything right, and after a certain point, he even starts subjecting himself to imminent danger. Both actor Guillermo Francella and writer Emanuel Diez deserve a round of applause for doing justice to the character and making the movie what it is.
After realizing that he has been smuggling that amount of (possibly undocumented) money for the Intelligence Service, Alejandro suspects foul play and doesn’t waste any time to go to Mario and meet public prosecutor Rita through Mario. This obviously doesn’t go well with Saavedra, as he threatens Alejandro for doing something that hurts their operation. Saavedra lets him go and tells him that things are going to change from now on. After coming back home, Alejandro finds out that Carolina now knows about his affair, which I suppose is an act of retaliation by Saavedra. With a dejected Carolina leaving Alejandro for the time being, he now has no reason to remain Saavedra’s puppet.
What Game Is Saavedra Playing?
Alejandro doesn’t find a suitcase in his locker before his next trip to Madrid. But at the airport, he sees Porchietto waiting to take the suitcase as usual. When Alejandro lets Porchietto know about the recent change in plan, obvious doubts arise in Porchietto’s head, and he calls the boss. On the phone call, Saavedra tells Porchietto that it is still business as usual, and he has sent the suitcase full of money. With the belief that Alejandro has stolen the money, Porchietto turns on the man. While Alejandro somehow manages to leave, Porchietto somehow manages to snatch the suitcase. Of course, at this point, it is pretty much evident that Saavedra is playing his own henchmen as well.
After managing not to get caught in the hands of Porchietto during his stay in Madrid, Alejandro returns to Argentina and starts to further investigate Saavedra and the men he used for whatever he was doing. Fernando starts helping him despite being scared for his own life. The two pilots eventually discover that another pilot that they knew was shot by someone some months ago. And that dead pilot is none other than Novak, which finally proves the whole point of the very first scene of the movie and ties it up with the main plot.
Knowing Novak’s fate, Alejandro decides to go public and puts himself under the protection of Team Mario and Rita. However, Fernando suffers the consequences as he gets beaten black and blue by Saavedra’s thugs.
‘The Extortion’ Ending Explained: How Does Alejandro Fix Everything?
I might be reaching here, but there is a certain kind of Spanish or Argentine cinema about a middle-aged or older man appearing to be a loser eventually turning the tide at the end of the day—movies like The Occupant (2020), and The Motive (2017) can back my claim. While watching The Extortion, my subconscious automatically started to think about this because the character of Alejandro is a lot like that. In other words, he fits the bill. And the second half of The Extortion only proved me right.
By the third act, The Extortion necessarily becomes a thrilling cat-and-mouse game between the protagonist and antagonist, i.e., Alejandro and Saavedra, respectively. With Alejandro launching full-on war against him, Saavedra plans to use Fernando to do his bidding.
He convinces Fernando to call Carolina to spook her about the impending trial where Alejandro is going to talk, which will affect all of their futures. Because a man like Saavedra is not going to let things go. On the day of the trial, Fernando asks Carolina to come to the courthouse in order to “put some sense” into Alejandro. Upon reaching the courthouse, amidst a political riot on the streets outside, Carolina finds out that she has walked into a trap, and the ruse was set by none other than Saavedra, who appears out of thin air and shoots both her and the security detail personnel. A crying Fernando apologizes to Carolina right before it happens.
Carolina still manages to survive but falls into a coma. A visibly angry Alejandro visits her at the hospital, where Fernando tells him not to go ahead with the trial as Saavedra will kill him. But Alejandro has had enough of it. From Fernando’s phone, he calls Saavedra and asks for a million dollars in order to not testify against Porchietto (and effectively, Saavedra). Saavedra agrees, and the two plan to meet at a nearby clock tower, a public place where it can just be a fair exchange without drama. Alejandro pretends not to recognize anyone and refuses to testify- which makes Rita angry; and she warns him that despite her realizing what the man is going through, she has no other option but to go after him. After getting out of jail all thanks to Alejandro not testifying, Porchietto gets out of jail, and he is immediately picked up by someone.
On the fateful night of the exchange, Alejandro checks into a nearby hotel before going to the clock tower. When he reaches the meeting point, Saavedra calls him and tells him that he can see Alejandro but is not going to meet him in person. We find out Saavedra has sent Fernando with a gun pointed at Alejandro and a suitcase full of money in his other hand. Saavedra boasts about always being ahead of Alejandro and asks the latter to take the money and go away. But things are never really what they seem to be, especially in movies like these. And Alejandro, being the de facto hero of this story, still has one card up his sleeve. Still, on call with Alejandro, Saavedra suddenly gets strangled to death by someone—who else but Porchietto? It turns out that it was Alejandro who picked up Porchietto, and just like Saavedra has used Fernando against him, Alejandro takes revenge by turning Saavedra’s man against him. There is one other person who was aware of the whole plan, and that is, of course, Mario. With Saavedra gone for good, Alejandro now lures Porchietto to his room to take his share of the money, which leads to the killer waking up in a trap and getting caught like a wounded rat. Porchietto’s trouble soon ends, though, when a vengeful Fernando barges into the scene and kills him with the gun.
A year later, we see Alejandro and Carolina still not together, but there is a potential spark between the two. Whether or not that happens, Alejandro has emerged as the winner in the end, after all.
However, The Extortion ends with a much younger pilot, whom we have seen before in the movie, opening his locker and finding a very familiar-looking suitcase, hinting that there are more heads of the snake called the Intelligence Service after all. Whether this is enough to construct a sequel or just something to throw you off is a matter of debate, which can wait for the time being.
The Extortion is a 2023 crime thriller film directed by Martino Zaidelis.