Movie Review: ‘Without Remorse’

Review by James Lindorf

After two highly successful seasons of the John Krasinski-led series “Jack Ryan,” Amazon Studios has decided to expand the Tom Clancy “Ryanverse” with the action thriller “Without Remorse.” Based on Tom Clancy’s 1993 Vietnam era novel “Without Remorse,” is the origin tale of Clancy’s second most popular character John Kelly. Kelly (Michael B. Jordan), an ex-Navy SEAL, retired after his last mission when wrong. Unfortunately, it was one mission too many when a squad of Russian soldiers kills his family in retaliation for his role in that top-secret op. In his search for justice, Kelly joins forces with a loyal SEAL (Jodie Turner-Smith) and a potentially traitorous CIA agent (Jamie Bell). Kelly’s personal mission unwittingly exposes a covert plot threatening to plunge the U.S. and Russia into an all-out war. Torn between revenge for his family and loyalty to his country, Kelly must fight enemies both foreign and domestic if he hopes to expose the influential figures behind the conspiracy. “Without Remorse” will be available on Amazon Prime Video on April 30th.

“Without Remorse” was adapted by “Sicario” and “Hell or High Water” scribe Taylor Sheridan and video game turned television writer Will Staples. This is the second team-up for Sheridan and Director Stefano Sollima; the pair previously worked on “Sicario: Day of the Soldado.” Joining the team as the director of photography is Philippe Rousselot. His career spans 50 years and includes hits like “Interview with the Vampire,” “Remember the Titans,” and the Fantastic Beasts series. With such an excellent team behind the camera and a very talented group of actors in front, it is all the more surprising that “Without Remorse” is such a middle-of-the-road movie. It doesn’t do anything particularly poorly; instead, it loses points for its basic plot and being merely adequate where you expect it to excel.

Michael B. Jordan may not be taking home any gold statues in the near future. Still, he has shown his fantastic range throughout his career from “The Wire” to “Black Panther” to “Just Mercy.” Even if Jordan doesn’t always get lost in his characters, he always feels authentic. He has proven more than capable of pulling off everything “Without Remorse” needs. His performance here may be the biggest shock of the film because it feels so forced. Maybe Sollima went to the George Lucas school of directing, and all his advice to Jordan was to be more intense. That could be why Jordan’s performance fell off the back end of the believability scale during crucial moments. During action scenes or when he has to play happy or angry, we get vintage Michael B. Jordan. In the heartbreaking moments, he feels too big and stuck in his head. He is no longer just acting; he is thinking about his performance and pushing it to 11. Where that would cripple a movie like “Just Mercy,” it is just a few jarring moments in the heavily action-focused “Without Remorse.”

This is a beautiful film. There is no questioning Rousselot’s ability to handle all the technical elements required to set up a shot. He also worked well with fight and stunt coordinators Can Aydin and Ralf Haeger. Together they brought intensity and brutality to the action. The scene where Kelly gets into a car that he just set on fire is completely illogical but totally amazing. It is a throwback to insane 80’s action movies but what better method to prove the lengths you are willing to go in pursuit of justice. While far from their most complex setup, that scene is a real standout moment for the stunt and cinematography teams. The cracking of the glass and the threat of burning alive or drowning in your own blood are horrifying. One thing that is crucial to getting the most out of your viewing experience is to close all the blinds and preferably watch after dark. Several scenes border on being too dark, but you shouldn’t have any issues with the proper home lighting.

I came in hoping for a great movie, and what I got was an entertaining and above-average action thriller. “Without Remorse” is “John Wick” meets “Mission Impossible,” it’s a blood-soaked, revenge-fueled tale of international espionage and has all the potential in the world. For now, it stands as a solid 3.5 out of 5. However, with the dark and moody origin story out of the way and promises of a sequel, Amazon may be able to follow a rainbow to a pot of gold with a John Kelly franchise. Where ever they take the character next, I can’t wait to see if Kelly gains momentum as Ethan Hunt did over his six-film series.

Directed by: Stefano Sollima
Written by: Taylor Sheridan and Will Staples
Produced by: Akiva Goldsman, Josh Appelbaum, André Nemec, Michael B. Jordan
Starring: Michael B. Jordan, Jamie Bell, Jodie Turner-Smith, Lauren London, Brett Gelman, Jacob Scipio, Jack Kesy, Colman Domingo, Todd Lassance, Cam Gigandet, Luke Mitchell, and Guy Pearce
Release Date (Streaming): April 30th, 2021
Runtime: 1h 50m

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