Tom Clancy's Without Remorse
Updated: Jul 13, 2021
A conspiracy/action/thriller starring Michael B. Jordan, based on a 1993 novel by Tom Clancy (the man who wrote the books that inspired the various Jack Ryan movies and Amazon Prime show) and co-written by Taylor Sheridan, sounds promising. After all, Jordan is a charismatic and engaging performer, previous big-screen adaptations of Clancy’s work have been enjoyable and Sheridan is the writer responsible for stuff like the Sicario series, Hell or High Water and Wind River. Combine the three together and you get something interesting, exciting and entertaining, right? Unfortunately, no. Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse (streaming on Amazon Prime) is as formulaic and predictable as it is confusing; a lazy retread with a protagonist so underwritten that he is basically unwritten, I sincerely hope it does not launch the franchise it was obviously intended to jumpstart.
The plot is familiar turf: after returning home from an operation to save a US soldier, Navy SEAL John Kelly and his men are targeted for revenge by the men whose plans they thwarted. The only survivor, Kelly must now uncover who is coming for him and why, so he can take them out… Without Remorse!
A story like this thrives based on how compelling the conspiracy is and how much fun it is to watch the main character get his vengeance. The plot is not compelling at all. I figured out who was behind it just from looking at the cast. Plus, their reason for setting everything in motion is not convincing. On top of that, the scheme is overly complicated, with several holes, but I won’t say any more for fear of spoiling things for someone who decides to watch this. This is to say that the plot of Without Remorse lost my attention fairly early.
That leaves the main character to make me care enough to get involved in the action. I am a fan of Michael B. Jordan. He was really good in Fruitvale Station and Black Panther. I have enjoyed him in pretty much everything he has been in, even things I didn’t end up liking. However, no matter how talented an actor is, it is difficult to make a role come alive when you are barely given anything to play. John Kelly is a soldier looking to eliminate the men responsible for the attack on his life. A trained killer seeking revenge. That is literally all there is to him. Viewers learn absolutely nothing else about him. Because he is so thin, it is essentially impossible for Jordan to give us any sense of Kelly as a man. He is a device the movie uses to run us through its paint-by-numbers plot. His charm is totally wasted on a character who has been given no real personality.
Without Remorse is an action movie but, since the story is boring and the lead has little to do except run around shooting at nondescript villains, I could not have cared less about the shootouts. Action means nothing to me without stakes and the stakes are too vague here. That turns it into a lot of noise leading to no excitement.
Michael B. Jordan, Jodie Turner-Smith (from Queen & Slim, as his commanding officer) and Jamie Bell (as a suspicious CIA agent) have each turned in strong performances elsewhere. Taylor Sheridan has written/directed some really good movies and has another project set for release in a couple of weeks that I am looking forward to (Those Who Wish Me Dead, in theaters and HBO Max May 14th). Without Remorse does not live up to the abilities of any of them. I referenced a lot of other movies in this review; I highly recommend watching any of those over this.
1 out of 5
Michael B. Jordan as John Kelly
Jodie Turner-Smith as Karen Greer
Jamie Bell as Robert Ritter
Guy Pearce as Secretary Clay
Directed by Stefano Sollima
Screenplay by Taylor Sheridan and Will Staples