PG Score: 6.25/10
Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse is available for streaming on Amazon Prime
Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse contains plenty of gritty gunplay and exciting set pieces, but it is obstructed by haphazard plot direction and uncharacteristically weak writing from Taylor Sheridan (Wind River and Yellowstone). Director Stefano Sollima (ZeroZeroZero and Sicario: Day of the Soldado) reaffirms his eye for intense action sequences, but his latest project lacks the necessary components to bring it to the next level.
The adaptation of the acclaimed author’s novel follows Navy SEAL John Clark (Michael B. Jordan) down a path of vengeance after his wife is murdered. As he enacts his unforgiving brand of justice, he uncovers a larger conspiracy in motion.
Without Remorse begins on a high note as John and his team link up with the CIA for a high-stakes covert operation. This segment sets the tone for the battles to come with an effective combination of fast-paced firefights and hand-to-hand combat. The camerawork throughout the entire 109-minute runtime is praiseworthy and makes for a smooth viewing experience as the high-octane shots are steadily captured. While some skirmishes do not hold up quite as well, there is no disputing that the action is enjoyable overall.
There are a few instances when Sollima pulls a page out of John Wick's playbook and blends the shooting with close-quarters melees. The choreography during these moments really shines as John unleashes a plethora of pain on his enemies in a diverse fashion. It is also worth commending the film for showing that the protagonist is not invincible, which is something that many other titles within the genre fail to do. He takes some serious damage throughout his quest for retribution, and Jordan does an excellent job of communicating those injuries as his character pushes forward.
The on-screen story deviates from the events of the book, which proves to be a big mistake. The plot only becomes more muddled as the central scheme unfolds. If this seems backwards, that is because it is. It jumps from one locale to the next with minimal justification (or in some cases, logic) for the development. As the messy plotline meanders along, it grows increasingly difficult for the electric fight scenes to minimize its impact. This would not be so problematic if it were a mindless action flick, but the movie is clearly intended to be more than that. The mystery at the heart of Without Remorse is significantly hurt by the convoluted storytelling.
The other area where the film consistently struggles is the subpar screenplay. The usually reliable Sheridan has produced some phenomenal works over the course of his decorated career. In addition to helming the forceful Wind River, the Yellowstone creator also penned the critically acclaimed Sicario (and its sequel, which was his first collaboration with Sollima) and Hell or High Water. These achievements make the superficial characters and nonsensical dialogue in Without Remorse that much more baffling. The gifted writer’s signature style and complex, intriguing characters are nowhere to be found.
Fortunately, Michael B. Jordan picks up some of the slack and injects a surprising amount of life into the one-dimensional John Clark. From the outset, it is evident the actor poured everything he had into his portrayal of the vengeful SEAL, and his performance brings energy to otherwise dull conversations. Jordan possesses a large amount of versatility and his range makes the protagonist, along with the movie, more compelling.
Jodie Turner-Smith leads the supporting cast as Karen Greer, who is related to a main character on Amazon Prime's Jack Ryan. The actress does everything she can to add depth to her character, but her lines render that task impossible. There is no denying Turner-Smith’s talent (her performance in Queen & Slim is a great example), but she was given inadequate material to work with here. She is joined by Jamie Bell as shadowy CIA agent Robert Ritter and Guy Pearce as Defense Secretary Thomas Clay. Both actors make the most of the flawed writing but are robbed of the opportunity to stand out.
Jordan to the Rescue
The chaotic narrative and bland script threaten to sink Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse, but the thrilling action and Michael B. Jordan’s valiant effort keep it afloat.