SYNOPSIS: An elite Navy SEAL uncovers an international conspiracy while seeking justice for the murder of his pregnant wife in Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse, the explosive origin story of action hero John Clark – one of the most popular characters in author Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan universe.
Hollywood continues to ruin the good works of Tom Clancy even though the celebrated writer has been dead for more than eight years. The latest movie adaptation is loosely based on his 1993 novel and of course fares nothing like it except featuring the lead character, John Kelly played by Michael B. Jordan.
Senior Chief U.S. Navy Seal John Kelly (Jordan) and his team mates are marked for death after their return from a mission in Syria. Kelly survives the shootout but not his heavily pregnant wife. And now Kelly is out for revenge after learning that the Russians are involved from his former officer, Lt-Col Karen Greer (Jodie Turner-Smith).
The movie adaptation of Without Remorse in short is far from superior as compared to the original novel. Lacking intricacy and insight in which a typical Tom Clancy novel is fond of. Most of his books touched on terrorism, military, technology and the Cold War and it seems writers Taylor Sheridan (Sicario) and Will Staples simply took the outlines and came up with a super generic dreadful action thriller.
Instead of altering the dated aspect of the book, the movie ironically works around with the idea. Cold War is so over but who cares when you can follow globe-trotting John Kelly escaping prison and exacting his revenge on his wife’s killers in Russia. Clearly, this is an action movie instead of a brainy, espionage one. Maybe it’s intended to be a conspiracy laden thriller but unfortunately, it’s half-baked and too predictable.
When a certain Secretary of Defense Thomas Clay is introduced shortly, we knew there is something shady about him. And if the character is played by Guy Pearce, you know he is up to something far sinister. Then there is Jamie Bell, Jordan’s former co-star in the disaster Fantastic Four remake playing CIA officer Robert Ritter that prefers to keep every details a secret from his teammates. Predictably, this recurring character only serves as a smokescreen.
Michael B. Jordan is a fantastic actor no doubt. He has put in his soul and solid performances in movies liked Creed, Black Panther and Just Mercy. In Without Remorse however, he is just a one-dimensional buff, action hero. There’s nothing interesting about his character that makes audiences crave more of him. He is a dull plain killing machine shifting from one action sequence to the next. There’s no exploration of morals, patriotism and politics from the character’s perspective. Perhaps that’s not Jordan’s fault in a way.
If the storyline wasn’t worth the wait, same goes to the wham-bam action. Director Stefano Sollima (Sicario: Day of Soldado) handles the pacing well but his biggest mistake is shooting most of the noisy action sequences in the dark with minimal urgency. Well, the only bright spot is watching Kelly interrogating a suspect in a flaming car. The rest are just boring shoot and kill.
Except for Harrison Ford’s Patriot Games, Clear and Present Danger and The Hunt for Red October, the movie adaptation of Tom Clancy works have been a tough sell despite landing Ben Affleck and Chris Pine as its leads in the past. Slapping on the Tom Clancy brand isn’t going to lure audiences unless Hollywood gets the story right. This is supposed to be an origin story for John Kelly/John Clark and a sequel is even teased halfway through the closing credits, we hope Jordan gets his deserved franchise but not with this sort of dismal material.
Review by Linus Tee