“Without Remorse” is the latest adaptation of a Tom Clancy novel. Released April 30 on Amazon Prime, the movie joins the John Krasinski TV show “Jack Ryan” in the streaming giant’s attempt to create a Clancy-verse. The question that needs to be asked: Was there a need for another Tom Clancy book-turned-movie?
Directed by Stefano Solima (“Sicario: Day of the Soldado”) and written by Taylor Sheridan (“Sicario,” “Hell or High Water”) and Will Staples, “Without Remorse” follows Navy SEAL John Kelly (Michael B. Jordan) one year after raiding a Syrian safehouse. When it’s revealed the safehouse actually belongs to the Russians, Kelly becomes suspicious of CIA agent Robert Ritter (Jamie Bell), who may know more than he lets on. The raid is, nonetheless, a success.
As Kelly looks forward to a peaceful life with his expecting wife, Pam (Lauren London), tragedy ensues. What follows is a globetrotting-espionage-political-revenge thriller full of elaborate action sequences, shady government officials and cheesy one-liners.
The main problem with this movie is it doesn’t know what it wants to be. It begins with a well-executed extraction sequence in war-torn Syria. Once we leave Syria, the film becomes a revenge thriller with Kelly out to get the men who attacked his wife. It then transitions into a political thriller inspired by Alan J. Pakula movies from the 1970s. Unfortunately, “Without Remorse” doesn’t succeed in any of these genres and ends up a convoluted mess.
The source material, Clancy’s novel of the same name, was written in 1993 and the writers have made no attempt to modernize it or make it intriguing. All the typical action movie beats found in movies like “Commando” are here — we even get the “dead wife” trope Hollywood can’t seem to let go of. Sheridan, who’s known for his neo-Westerns, seems lost in Clancy’s world, and as a result, we get a generic plot with underdeveloped characters.
To his credit, Jordan, who also serves as co-producer, does the most he can from the little he is given to work with. He’s charismatic, charming, and even makes lines like “Sir, if this guy is as bad as you say he is, then you need someone like me. And there’s nobody like me” feel effective. Jordan has emerged as a bona fide star, having displayed his chops as the antagonist in “Black Panther” and as the lead in the “Creed” movies. He deserves a better script and more characterization than “man seeking revenge against Russians.”
The other actors aren’t given the opportunity to leave an impact. Bell and Jodie Turner-Smith, talented actors, end up being stereotypical CIA agents — another Hollywood cliché in a film full of them. Guy Pearce appears as the secretary of defense and performs well, but his character might be the most underwritten. At no point do the secretary’s motives make sense, which makes the climax even more confusing.
“Without Remorse” might be worth watching for its action sequences, which are impressive. The opening extraction in Syria is tense and a great way to grab the audience’s attention.
The highlight of the movie is a visceral rooftop sequence with Jordan battling off a dozen or so Russian agents. Solima does a good job in using the setting to enhance the scene and employs some excellent action choreography — if he had fully committed to the action rather than the dated plot, the movie might’ve been better.
The post-credit scene all but guarantees a sequel and hints at a possible crossover with other Clancy heroes, but is there really a need for a Clancy-verse? After the successful Jack Ryan movies from the 1990s, it seems the audiences aren’t pining for more Clancy movies.
The Krasinski show may have its viewers, but it’s no “WandaVision.” These movies and TV shows seem like an attempt by Amazon to latch on to existing IP to create some semblance of a cinematic universe, and it shows. Just think how much cooler it would be to see Jordan starring in his own original spy thriller.
“Without Remorse” isn’t a horrible movie, but it’s also not reinventing the wheel. The below average thriller is elevated by its action sequences and Jordan’s performance, though it won’t leave viewers feeling remorse, but rather frustrated and confused.
“Without Remorse,” rated R, is now streaming on Amazon Prime.