Title: Without Remorse
Describe This Movie In One Clerks Quote:
VIDEO CUSTOMER: Ooh, Navy SEALS!
Brief Plot Synopsis: Grieving widower kills and kills again.
Rating Using Random Objects Relevant To The Film: 1.5 Castle Wolfensteins out of 5.
Tagline: "From the author of Rainbow Six."
Better Tagline: "We committed to two movies and here we are."
Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: Navy SEAL John Kelly's (Michael B. Jordan) last mission ran afoul of Russian spooks in Syria, and their superiors apparently held a grudge. After Russian operators travel to the States and kill two of Kelly's team along with his pregnant wife Pam (Lauren London), Kelly understandably vows revenge. Standing in his way is the CIA, in the person of Robert Ritter (Jamie Bell), who wants to keep tensions between the United States and Russia from escalating to a full-blown war.
"Critical" Analysis: To paraphrase the immortal Regina George, maybe Hollywood should stop trying to make Tom Clancy happen.
Without Remorse (or Tom Clancy's Without Remorse) tells the origin of Clancy Cinematic Universe (or "Ryanverse") mainstay John Clark, played in previous films by Willem Dafoe and Liev Schreiber. And while the movies have made their money, they've been largely unremarkable. The best thing you can say about this origin tale, directed by Stefano Sollima of Gomorrah and Sicario: Day of the Soldado fame, is that it's sometimes rises to that level.
The movie also scraps most of what's laid down in Clancy's book. John Kelly (the Clark alias comes later) is still a former Navy SEAL, but that's about it. The homegrown drug dealers who tortured his girlfriend have been replaced by Russkies, and instead of a side plot about rescuing POWs, we now have to worry about global thermonuclear war.
Even so, the mechanism driving Kelly/Clark's vengeance is so hilariously contrived, you can almost believe Clancy came up with it himself. Namely, the CIA elects not to pursue the matter of Russians operating on American soil because it means we'll be even-steven after Kelly's team inadvertently killed some of them in Syria (an actual theater of war, by the way). Oh, and the Defense Department is totally cool with it.
It's almost as ridiculous as Kelly telling his lieutenant commander "they brought the war to my house" like he didn't just get back from blowing the hell out of houses in the Middle East. Or doesn't ultimately end up in Murmansk killing a bunch of Russian cops who had nothing to do with any of his previous travails.
The filmmakers do throw some bones to the Clancyphiles in the form of CIA contact Ritter, who has yet to morph into the unctuous weasel played by Henry Czerny in Clear and Present Danger, and Kelly's CO, Karen Greer (Jodie Turner-Smith), the daughter of Ryanverse stalwart Admiral Greer.
Unfortunately, the numb patriotism is heavy-handed even for a Clancy adaptation, to the point you'll find yourself hard-pressed not to do a double-take when you check to see who write this. Turns out it was Taylor Sheridan, who penned the superlative Hell or High Water and the competent Wind River. What the hell happened?
Co-writer Will Staples is apparently what happened. Staples is best known for scripting Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, which explains why so much of the movie looks like a FPS cutscene. And in keeping with that theme, there's no real resolution to the plot. In the end, Kelly (now Clark) suggests the formation of the counter-terrorist group Rainbow, leapfrogging years of CIA black ops work established in the books.
Michael B. Jordan is a charismatic and compelling performer, capably kicking ass and depicting Kelly as nearly unhinged by grief, but even he can't elevate this. Worse, he doesn't appear to want to. And with all the effort made to establish the iffiness of the CIA's motives throughout the movie, it's hard to believe he'd so readily return to their arms.
Without Remorse is now streaming on Amazon Prime Video. And no, there is no John Krasinski cameo.
Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.