By: John M Jerva
THE REVIEW: Michael B. Jordan’s stock has certainly risen over the last few years as the actor has seen much success with his Creed franchise garnering favorable reviews from critics and audiences alike. Jordan is no stranger to physical roles of course but up until now, he has never headlined a full blown action film from beginning to end. A few years back, he made news when it was announced that he would be starring in the big screen adaptaion of Tom Clancy’s best selling book Without Remorse and that he would also be starting a franchise based off it and Clancy’s equally popular Rainbow Six novel. Without Remorse was supposed to release in theaters last year but the pandemic halted that and now here we are in April as the actioner has finally debuted on Amazon Prime.
Forget what you know about the original source material here because aside from the revenge plot, there is nothing actually reminiscent here of the book as director Stefano Sollima (Sicario: Day of the Soldado) and company have literally retooled the book and turned it into another beast all together. Yes Jordan is playing elite Navy SEAL John Kelly who would later go on to be known as John Clark and yes he does lose his wife but that’s about it folks as this movie walks its own path and gives the popular Clancy character a whole new origin story. This might put off some fans of Clancy’s novels but for me, I accepted what was changed and just enjoyed the ride it took me on.
The film works mostly because of Jordan’s performance as he once again delivers a meaty dramatic portrait but this time he also gets to show us that he is now a new contender for reigning on screen action hero as he vibrantly brings John Kelly (Clark) to life. The film’s running time of 109 minutes is perfect to introduce this character on the big. or small. screen if you will to those that might not know anything about Tom Clancy’s world. After all, up until now Jack Ryan was the poster boy for Tom Clancy movie adaptations but now we have another candidate who until now was only a supporting player in feature films.
As Without Remorse opens, we are treated to a black ops mission in Syria where Kelly and his team of shadow warriors are engaged in a rescue mission to bring out a captured CIA operative who is being held. Along for the ride is CIA official Robert Ritter (Jamie Bell) who is the very definition of shadowy as he butts heads with Senior Chief Kelly when things don’t add up during the mission. What follows is a massive shootout and hand to hand display as Kelly and crew fight their way out only to discover that it’s not just the Syrian army at play here but also Russians. I smell a conspiracy at play.
Once home, members of Kelly’s team begin to get murdered just like in Schwarzenegger’s Commando and one scene even has one unlucky SEAL meeting his demise while taking out the trash just like in that 1985 classic. Things really heat up when four assailants break into Kelly’s home and murder his eight month pregnant wife and while Kelly heroically takes out two of the dark figures, the big one who murdered his wife gets away. Kelly in the process is seriously wounded and must recover but in doing so, he discovers a vast conspiracy on hand that involves his government, the CIA and the Russians.
Once healed, Kelly goes after those involved and takes out a big Russian official in the process landing him in jail but after a brutal fight sequence against prison guards, Kelly is sprung courtesy of Secretary Clay (a brooding Guy Pearce) who wants to know what Kelly knows. This leads to Clay allowing a covert mission to find another important Russian asset and the stage is set for an explosive climax where Kelly and the survivng members of his team are set up and must fight their way out once again while trying to unravel a conspiracy that goes high up.
Before viewing this movie ahead of its release. I saw many headlines for reviews serving up some negative criticism on the film and even though some of it is warranted, Without Remorse delivered the bullets and bravado for me and Jordan was in the zone as Kelly in both the dramatic and action sequences. Jordan, in my eyes, is similar to a young Denzel Washington, because just like that iconic actor, Jordan elevates a movie that is another straight forward revenge thriller sprinkled with conspiracy elements. There is nothing remotely new here that we haven’t seen before but Jordan winks at the audience and tells us to accept its short comings and buckle up.
The rest of the cast is pretty solid as we have Jodie Turner-Smith who plays Greer, one of Kelly’s most trusted comrades. She does well with what she’s given and she even gets to have a showcase fight in the finale. I won’t lie and say that Jamie Bell, who I loved in 6 Days, is a little miscast as the CIA operative Ritter. Bell is good in his scenes but he just looks out of place most of the time and I didn’t buy him as the man whose allegiance was in question. Guy Pearce is his usual brooding self as Senator Clay and he’s given the least to work with here but he doesn’t sleepwalk through it like many others would. I also found it a bit odd that Cam Gigandet was featured but he was only on screen for what amounted to a couple minutes if that as he played one of the SEALS that is murdered in the beginning. They could have gotten any no name to do that role but maybe he just wanted to be involved in a Tom Clancy movie.
The action sequences are solid but not epic and the beginning set piece and the finale are perfect book ends for the movie. They both do have the right amount of tension and the intro has a nice knife kill from Jordan that was pretty impressive. The finale has it all from bullets to explosions to Jordan doing his one man army thing as he attacks the enemy head on as to create a distraction so his comrades can get away. The scene is well executed and it features an exciting fight on a stairway as Kelly goes through mutiple targets to save the day. What’s even better is that the action is shot clearly with steadycam and sweeping shots so there isn’t the poison of shaky cam that a lot of big budget productions suffer from. I’ll never understand why some filmmakers think that shaking things up is the way to go for a viseral look while all you have to do is have exciting choreography and people who know what they’re doing in front of and behind the camera. Without Remorse gives us the action and gives it to us nice and clear. While I’ve seen better action sequences in other movies, here it was admirable and I enjoyed it.
Over all, Without Remorse, is a good intro for what will hopefully be a series of films with Jordan, who officially takes on the name of John Clark at the end, starring in as this universe expands. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see Jordan’s John Clark and John Krasinki’s Jack Ryan crossover with each other as now these two properties are at Amazon. There is a stinger scene after the initial credits where we see the birth of the iconic Rainbow Six task force and I’m eager to see what Jordan has in store in the future so here’s hoping that we get to see it. Unfortunately, for true Clancy fans, the plot of the book is revamped and extremely retooled but for me I didn’t mind and I thought it served its purpose. Would it have been nice to see a more faithful adaptation? Sure, but it didn’t kill it for me and once again Jordan and the rousing action was a big seller for me. If you forgive that bigger mistake, then the movie should entertain. After all, it’s all about the bullets and the bravado and Jordan is in fine form with this hopeful franchise character.