‘Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse’ Review: Clancy adaptation a throwback to ’90s action films
Without Remorse (technically Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse) is the sixth movie based on a Clancy novel but the first to make Clancy’s other famous spy character, John Clark, its primary player.
The prolific espionage writer is known for creating Jack Ryan, played previously by heavyweights like Harrison Ford and Alec Baldwin on the big screen and currently being portrayed by John Krasinski on the Amazon Prime series Jack Ryan.
In the books, Clark is written as a more intimidating physical presence and more inclined to take retaliatory action than the more measured Ryan. It turns out that Michael B. Jordan, star of the Creed franchise and villain of Black Panther, is a nice fit for a more imposing protagonist to head up a lean and mean action film like this one.
We meet Clark alongside his crew of Navy SEALs in Syria as they rescue a high-value hostage who their boss, Director Ritter (Jamie Bell), tells them is being held by potential ISIS members. It turns out the captors were Russian military. Months later, members of the SEAL team are assassinated on U.S. soil as retribution.
Caught in the crossfire is Clark’s pregnant wife Pam (Lauren London), whose attackers (save one) are killed by Clark soon afterwards. Thanks to a lead from friend in the CIA Karen Greer (Jodie Turner-Smith), Clark goes on a warpath to track down the final assassin and avenge his wife’s untimely death as well as the deaths of his former teammates.
We’ve seen this plot before, and we’ve probably seen it done better, too, but what sets Without Remorse apart from its revenge movie peers is the effortlessly breakneck pace established by director Stefano Sollima. Using land, air, and sea as settings, he elegantly strings his efficiently brutal action setpieces together with just the right amount of interpersonal drama and tense geopolitical intrigue.
The pace reminded me of an action-packed video game, specifically — and perhaps not coincidentally — the stealth shooting game Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell. As with the recent Mortal Kombat reboot, we’ve seen Hollywood try to make video games cinematic, but more uncommon and admirable are the films that evoke the excitement of discovering a video game in real time.
Whether he’s getting into a burning car for an “advanced interrogation” or shirtlessly preparing to take on a legion of armored prison guards, Jordan oozes the command and confidence vital for this role.
Though the movie doesn’t utilize the full range of his charisma, Jordan also has an understated chemistry with Turner-Smith that blurs the line between the characters’ professional friendship and potential romance.
The script is a collaboration between video game developer Will Staples and Hell or High Water scribe Taylor Sheridan. While the dialogue isn’t particularly noteworthy or inspired, it gets the job done. After all, Clancy books are notoriously long. Distilling one into a 100-minute movie doesn’t necessarily make for the easiest adaptation.
Like nearly everything else in the movie industry these days, this film sets up an extended universe (Clancyverse has likely already been trademarked) for future content, confirmed by the post-credit stinger.
I, for one, certainly wouldn’t be opposed to Michael B. Jordan teaming up with John Krasinski for a Clark/Ryan project, whether as a movie or new Amazon series. If they do, I hope they’re able to include stories with a bit more meat on the bone and rope in talented directors like Sollima for more first-rate action sequences.
As both an adrenaline-pumping franchise-starter and throwback to 1990s action fare, Without Remorse is a guilty pleasure about which you don’t have to feel too guilty.
New Movies Coming This Weekend
Opening only in theaters is Wrath of Man, a Guy Ritchie action thriller starring Jason Statham and Holt McCallany about a mysterious money courier who is on the hunt for the people behind his son’s murder.
Available to rent on demand is Mainstream, a dramedy starring Andrew Garfield and Maya Hawke about a young woman who finds a path to internet stardom when she starts making videos with a charismatic stranger.
Streaming on Netflix is Monster, a legal drama starring Kelvin Harrison Jr. and Jennifer Ehle about a teenage honor student whose world comes crashing down around him when he is charged with felony murder.