Based on the Tom Clancy novel of the same name, Without Remorse is about as tactile and dry of an action thriller and one would expect from the tech-tantalized author.
Published on May 7, 2021
Rating 2 /5
Based on the Tom Clancy novel of the same name, Without Remorse is about as tactile and dry of an action thriller and one would expect from the tech-tantalized author. His story is given the film treatment that showcases all his hallmarks elements: CIA, wartorn countries, Russian operatives, guns, double-crosses, and intrigue. But if this film adaptation was intended to be a slow burn thriller, it hardly musters an ember in its mild attempt at military-based theatrics.
Michael B. Jordan stars in the somewhat thankless role of John Kelly, a US Navy SEAL who hates being kept in the dark. He becomes especially frustrated when on a mission in Aleppo when tasked with rescuing a CIA operative. The surprise comes when discovering the captors are not Syrian but Russian. When asked about why he wasn’t informed after the mission is complete, he is told to shut up.
Three months pass and Kelly finds himself even more questioning and in the dark when a handful of familiar Navy SEALs are assassinated by Russian operatives. Kelly identifies one after his home is invaded, evading execution. But when one of the ops kills his pregnant wife, now things get personal. Kelly becomes driven by revenge to seek out who is carrying out these murders and kill them himself.
Kelly’s revenge-seeking journey has its moments of feeling both standard and baffling. One of his first acts to get information is to ram into the car of a Russian diplomat, set the car on fire, get inside the burning car, and question at gunpoint. That’s some overkill for getting info but I almost wish the rest of the film were so brazen. It would at least be a breath of fresh air from the dreary night-based battles of Russian jets shooting down his transport into the Russian coast or a sniper situation in a Russian city.
Without Remorse features a lot of solid set-pieces that are impressive more for their assembly than anything else. Scenes of Kelly swimming through a submerged plane and the aforementioned burning car interrogation are certainly highlights. But there are so many scenes bathed in the darkness that it’s hard to appreciate any of the gunplay in moments when Kelly’s pitch-black home is invaded or pushed in on the interior of terrorists in Aleppo. The scenes are not only hard to see but are robbed of clarity. Let’s be real here; Tom Clancy’s stories are not built to be contrast-heavy noir. All these harsh shadows just don’t seem worth it for that one clever shot of a rolling flashlight to reveal one of the Russian operatives.
Without Remorse could totally work if it had more personality in its arsenal. Kelly’s story is just such a tired cobbling of revenge-thriller anti-heroes and his dialogue is so sternly standard it’s practically a parody (“All I need is a name!”). What makes the film even less appealing is how it ends not with a grander contemplation on the nature of Russian relations, corrupt political offices, and the dangers of the CIA, but with the sequel-baiting of Rainbow Six. Onto the next Clancy movie, I suppose.
Mark has been a professional film critic for over five years and a film lover all his life.