Without Remorse may give you a case of buyer’s remorse.
It’s a shame Michael B. Jordan’s talents were wasted on such a pedestrian adaptation of the Tom Clancy novel Without Remorse. It’s that kind of action film that follows the thriller playbook step by step and without any diversion or outside-the-box thinking. It is so much that kind of thriller that as soon as you see a big-name actor in a supporting role grace the screen, you know they are the villain, deflating any suspense in the process.
Without Remorse stars Michael B. Jordan as John Clark, an elite Navy Seal who completes one last job before calling time on his career. He has a pregnant wife at home, Pam (Lauren London), and it’s time to settle down to raise a family. The problem is that last job we talked about. Clark and his team (including Queen and Slim’s Jodie Turner-Smith) had been misled by a CIA operative (Jamie Bell). They thought they were grabbing an asset controlled by Syrian forces. Instead, it was the Russian military that had them and they want pay back.
Without Remorse was directed by Stefano Sollima, and it’s a surprise how pedestrian his latest is. Here is the man who directed one of my favorite crime films of all time, Suburra, who was never afraid to make bold choices. His Amazon Prime Video show, Zero Zero Zero, is a sprawling crime series that sticks with you long after it’s over. Even his critically drubbed follow-up to Sicario had a sense of dread and style all its own. Without Remorse is the antithesis of all that.
The script was adapted from the Tom Clancy novel of the same name. They cut out subplots to make it easier on the viewer and the result is a watered-down product that is known for smart, calculated plots and deeper themes. The book was set around the Vietnam era with great political unrest. One would think this could be updated to the social justice decade, but the source material is reworked with a basic revenge thriller instead of standing up for a group with no voice. It also lacks what Clancy is known for. It has little to do with espionage, military science, and technology-based thrillers.
That’s not to say Without Remorse doesn’t work on many levels. Jordan is a born action star. If this film is a hit, with a little reworking, it could be a major franchise. He is impressive here, even if he has to recycle the same clichéd lines you hear in countless action pictures. The film does have a couple of impressive set pieces that will keep the viewer interested. Even though it does lack most Clancy films’ signature style, Sollima’s ending of the film doesn’t offer any real surprises but is an effective set-up to future films.
That though leaves the viewer wondering whether they can live with the law of these types of films. Some fans will argue the film has several possible bad guys, but it’s all smokescreen. The red herring in the film is pushing the audience toward making it known they are not the mastermind behind the crime. This leaves only one person left that it could be with one act to go before the end credits.
Without Remorse may please your average film fan or those who don’t have the experience of sitting through these genre pictures. Sollima’s film is an exercise in watering down the Tom Clancy thriller. The plot was never in doubt in the first place. It begs the question “Why do we need to have the hidden villain anyway?” It is beholden to the laws of movie-making. The first rule is studios do not trust their audience. The second is they will never feel remorse for that.