Review: Action-packed 'Without Remorse' could use some heart
Courtesy of Paramount/Amazon
It makes sense that global superstar Michael B Jordan would choose a Tom Clancy origin story as his next major franchise. And now that his “Without Remorse” was sold to Amazon Prime, where streaming minutes count more than box office dollars, the stinger in the closing credits might come to fruition (unlike say “Artemis Fowl” or “Mortal Kombat” where the future, especially the former, isn’t guaranteed). On its own, Stefano Sollima’s plunge into the Clancy cinematic universe is a great vehicle for Jordan who can crack skulls and break necks whilst showing off his toned abs and biceps. Some of the stunts are remarkable and the training undergone by the entire cast adds a level of authenticity, but “Without Remorse” is just another bland action novel adaptation where the emotional hook is gutted in lieu of giant explosions and laughable red herrings.
The Clancy brand is synonymous with disciplined veterans and bulky, charismatic leads. His empire has inspired a legion of fans, including today’s teenagers thanks to the resurgence of popular video game “Rainbow Six Siege.” But “Without Remorse,” a spin-off of the “Jack Ryan” series published in 1993, struggles to convert and update itself for the 21st century save for a half-baked plot about the Russian government ordering hits on US servicemen. Sound familiar?
Jordan plays John Kelly, a distinguished Navy SEAL who finds himself entangled in a CIA/Russia conspiracy operation that sees his fellow peers executed in broad daylight. They come for Kelly too, but his unique set of skills and hyper awareness means he’s practically indestructible, though it doesn’t save his pregnant wife (Lauren London) from becoming collateral damage. Obviously, this becomes the prime motivation for Kelly’s revenge plot, and he coordinates with high-level military officials (played by Jamie Bell, Jodie Turner-Smith, and Guy Peace respectively) to track down a token Russian operative who ordered the hit. In pure Clancy fashion, it’s not always cut and dry, but Jordan – along with screenwriters Taylor Sheridan and Will Staples – are more interested in laying the framework for future installments than explore Kelly’s traumatic past on screen. There are brief hints and flashbacks that signal the character’s internal struggle but losing a pregnant wife can’t be easy nor is the emotional turmoil. We don’t even get a funeral scene or sense of closure.
It doesn’t help that “Without Remorse” feels stuck in 1993 with stock characters who could barely sustain the films nearly two-hour runtime, opting to kill the more interesting figures within the first ten minutes. Kelly is no different, a staple of Clancy’s arsenal of iconic leading men who have a strict moral code and must fight to preserve their integrity but is hollow and vastly undeveloped once the action subsides. Elaborate stunts and a slew of bare-knuckle beat-downs can salvage an otherwise tired narrative, except “Without Remorse” tries to tow the line between two worlds and the imbalance becomes overwhelming. It’s fine to have no remorse, but some heart would be appreciated.
WITHOUT REMORSE debuts on Amazon Prime Video Friday, April 30th