By: Kevin Jordan
Until you watch this film.
While we continue to wait for theaters to reopen with movies we actually want to pay for, streaming services are still pumping out plenty of content for us to chew on. Three weeks ago, Without Remorse dropped on Amazon Prime and I finally found some time to sneak it in. And I was looking forward to it. Amazon’s Jack Ryan series has been solid, and Tom Clancy movies are typically fun, twisty, intrigue-filled, action thrillers worth watching at least once. Unfortunately, Without Remorse has a disadvantage the other Clancy films lacked – no Jack Ryan. As hurdles go, Without Remorse ran face first into it.
(Very mild SPOILER ALERT – If we had to actually pay for this, I’d really be spoiling this clunker.)
The film starts out in typical soldier movie fashion with Kelly leading a team tasked with rescuing a hostage in Aleppo, Syria, as part of a joint CIA operation. Our new Tom Clancy lead is Navy SEAL Senior Chief John Kelly (Michael B. Jordan), who has all the charisma of a kitchen sink. During the mission briefing, Kelly says “Wow. That was a good talk.” CIA agent Robert Ritter (Jamie Bell) responds with “You a comedian? Is that it?” Another SEAL responds with another dud of a retort and we’ve just witnessed a bunch of actors proving why they were cast in a dead-serious action flick and not a comedy. Especially Jordan, but we’ll come back to that later.
During the mission, Kelly discovers that the soldiers holding the hostage are not Syrian, but Russian, and this is supposed to be some big revelation. It was an open secret that both the United States and Russia had troops on the ground in Syria. So, why doesn’t Ritter just tell them? It’s not like the Navy SEALS are under the impression that Russia is just there for the nightlife. Because CIA. If Ritter told them he’d have to kill them. Right, Hollywood?
Fast forward three months and our SEALS are enjoying not being on a mission. Suddenly, Russian assassins are everywhere, killing the SEALS in revenge. Kelly manages to survive several gunshot wounds, but his pregnant wife Pam (Lauren London) is gunned down in her sleep before Kelly is able to kill all but one of the assassins in his home. After recovering, Kelly’s only goal left in life is to hunt down the escaped assassin to avenge his family’s death. Unlike Wrath of Man and John Wick, this movie isn’t putting the viewer into a fantastical mob or hitman landscape that at least have inklings of creativity to keep the viewer engaged. Kelly is just a blunt instrument sent on his way by his commanding officer, Lieutenant Commander Greer (Jodie Turner-Smith) who has the gall to be upset that Kelly goes on a murder spree and ends up having to get him out of prison. If this were a stupid 80’s action flick (and let’s be honest, it is), Greer definitely checks the box for this movie having a stupid chief.
Meanwhile, Secretary of Defense Thomas Clay (Guy Pearce) wants to send Russia a message that killing American soldiers on American soil is a no-no. During Kelly’s murder spree, Kelly acquired the name of the escaped assassin and Clay greenlights a mission to track down the assassin and kill him. To recap the plot of this movie so far, it’s: hostage rescue and dead Russians, revenge, revenge, revenge. This is followed by a reveal that makes zero sense, followed by the final reveal that makes the first reveal somehow even more nonsensical (plus, the motivation explaining it is mind-numbingly banal), followed by more revenge. It wouldn’t be so bad if it at least featured amazing choreography or wasn’t dripping in wildly outdated political Cold War intrigue.
Speaking of which, I am not seeing what other people see in Jordan. I was not impressed with his performances in Creed or Black Panther (or Fahrenheit 451, for that matter) and his performance as Kelly did nothing to change my mind. Not that the script did him any favors. There is an attempt to make him seem like a thinker early in the film. Once when he discovers the Russian soldiers by looking at the cell phone of one of the dead soldiers and later when he is walking by his kids playing chess and stops to make a move for one of the kids. Oh, and since I have the power to pause this movie, I rewatched the move he made and it wasn’t even legal! He moved a bishop like it was a knight. Not only is he the asshole who butted into a game of chess (which would get said person stabbed with a pawn), but he doesn’t even know how to play chess. No wonder the idiot’s revenge plan included ramming a car in the departures area of Dulles, then setting the car on fire, all while dozens of people watched (and in real life, would have captured the video of on their phones).
Despite all that, this film might have been tolerable had Jordan shown the slightest amount of interest in his character. Jordan’s Kelly is a flat, boring character with whom you sympathize only by default, due to his dead wife. The only point in the movie where his character comes to life is when he fights off a bunch of prison guards in his cell. And don’t think I’m letting the rest of the cast off the hook. Turner-Smith somehow manages negative charisma, Pearce seems just as confused by the plot and his lines as the audience is, and Bell is clearly trying to convince us that Ritter is not trustworthy purely because CIA. Turns out London was the only winner since all she had to do was die in her sleep as pregnant Pam. And I do mean only winner because running into that hurdle hurts.
Rating: You didn’t pay for this movie and you should still ask for eight dollars back.