By Chris “Boogie” Brown
“Without Remorse” is an action-thriller based on the popular 1993 novel by famed author Tom Clancy. The film stars Michael B. Jordan in the lead role of “John Kelly”, a character previously played by actors Willem Dafoe and Liev Schreiber in other notable Tom Clancy based films, “Clear and Present Danger” & “The Sum of All Fears”. This film is directed by Stefano Sollima (“Sicaro: Day of the Soldado”) and also features a talented cast of actors including Guy Pierce, Jody Turner-Smith, Jaime Bell and Laura London. (For full transparency, I’ve never read the Tom Clancy novel so I couldn’t tell you how the events of the film match up to the novel. My thoughts are solely based on what I thought of the film as presented in this medium.)
The film introduces us to “John Kelly”, a Navy Seals Operative, leading a team of Seals in Syria on a Special Ops mission to rescue a kidnapped CIA official. Following the rocky mission, the Seal team returns to America but their locations are identified by Russian Assassins. Eventually, these hitmen take out members of Kelly’s team one by one in retaliation for their rescue mission. They look to do the same to Kelly by invading his home and murder his pregnant wife. While Kelly is shot and severely injured during the attack, he also manages to eliminate all but one of the Russian Assassins. As he receives urgent hospital care, Kelly eventually heals from his injuries, but remains driven by the thought of retaliation and will stop at nothing to get it.
At this point, Kelly is depicted as a man with nothing to lose who risks it all to find answers that lead him to his wife’s assassins. While on his path of revenge, Kelly also begins to uncover a deep conspiracy that could have huge implications and result in all-out war between the US and Russia. From there, the story unfolds into an intriguing mystery that takes Kelly from prison to Russia which results in a insanely action-packed finale.
Michael B. Jordan carries the emotional and action beats of the film well and excels within the confines of the material. Over the years, Jordan has proven he has the range to tackle roles which involve dramatic acting as well as physicality. In “Without Remorse”, he is able to utilize both of these talents in his repertoire as we witness the turbulent character arc of “John Kelly” on display. Playing a character who is grieving and fueled by revenge, Jordan sells the emotional moments of the film in such a way to make viewers feel for the character’s plight and understand his motives. Jordan also has shares great chemistry with supporting actors Lauren London who portrays his wife (“Pam Kelly”) and Jody Turner-Smith who portrays his commanding officer (“Karen Greer”). Last seen in 2019’s “Queen & Slim”, Turner-Smith gives a solid performance and handles the drama and action elements well.
As proven in his previous roles portraying “Erik Killmonger” in Black Panther or “Adonis Creed” in Creed I & II, Jordan exudes authenticity, believability in the dynamic aspects a film calls for. In “Without Remorse”, this is no different as MBJ rises to the occasion and delivers as John Kelly. In this film, Jordan displays this gritty character with a sense of authenticity you would believe is synonymous with a trained Military Operative. The action in the film, while tactical and compact, is amazing to watch, intense, involves crisp fighting choreography, weapons fire-fights, and one particularly impressive sequence involving a 747 aircraft. The combat on display comes off realistic and is filmed in a such a manner that the viewer can clearly discern everything that is transpiring. Director Stefano Sollima wisely chooses to let the scenes breathe while the action tells the story without the overuse of shaky cam or jump cut edits in the sequences.
While the performances and thrilling action sequences all deliver, “Without Remorse” isn’t without a few criticisms. As you watch the film, you’ll begin to recognize many familiar plot devices which have been seen in similar revenge-driven films of this nature. The film has it’s fair amount of twists and turns as the film unfolds, but many experienced eyes will see them coming way before their final execution in the film.
With that said, while certain elements of the story can be deemed predictable or formulaic, you never get the feeling that the actors are phoning it in or not treating the material seriously. I would also say that for whatever the story may be lacking in originality, it is made up for with the strong performances throughout. Lastly, there are moments in the movie where you get a sense that the film’s budgetary restraints hold it back from truly delivering on its full potential as a bigger action spectacle for the intense material at hand.
While not flawless, overall I found “Without Remorse” to be a thrilling film which features another powerful performance by Michael B. Jordan. The film acts as action-thriller with themes of political espionage and double crosses throughout. From my understanding, Jordan (who was a producer on this film) is looking to turn this into another starring franchise for himself with more films to follow as this character. The film’s final moments certainly set this up even going as far as including a post-credit scene teasing what’s possibly to come.
Generic themes aside, “Without Remorse” still entertains, in the theater and the small screen. Michael B. Jordan continues to grow as a talent and roles like this push him as one of Hollywood’s bankable actors. “Without Remorse” debuts this Friday and can be streamed exclusively on Amazon Prime Video