Possible spoilers ahead!
Directed by Stefano Sollima and written by Taylor Sheridan and Will Staples, Prime video’s “Without Remorse” centers around Navy SEAL John Kelly (Michael B. Jordan). When the film opens, Kelly is in Syria on a top-secret mission that appears to be successful. Months later, a now retires John returns home to his pregnant wife Pam (Lauren London) and takes a job with a private security company
However, the next chapter of his life is cut short when a group of Russian soldiers, angry about Kelly’s interference in Syria. The Russians break into the Kelly home and kill his wife. After the murder, John Kelly sets out on a revenge-fueled mission which leads him to uncover a covert operation that could set off a war between the United States and Russia.
“Without Remorse” is based on the novel by Tom Clancy and serves as an origin story for John Kelly, who is best known by his alias John Clark in Clancy’s novels and the subsequent film adaptations centering CIA agent Jack Ryan. Don’t remember him? me either, so I had to look him up and found out that the character has been played by Willem Dafoe and Liev Schreiber. On paper, this sounds like a good way to expand the Jack Ryan universe that Amazon seems to be setting up. Unfortunately, this movie is a chore to get through.
That’s bad enough, but the film also wastes the talents of Michael B. Jordan. I could not tell you anything about John Kelly the person besides that he’s a Navy SEAL. The script doesn’t take the time to make me care about him, his wife, or what his job is. Doing this undercut any character development, and thereby makes Kelly a one-note character. As good an actor as he is, there only so much that Michael B. Jordan can do with what he is given.
The main plot is as straightforward as it gets. The problem is it’s nothing audiences haven’t seen before. Off the top of my head I can think of “Hard to Kill,” “A Man Apart,” and “The Punisher” all of which had similar stories about a guy whose family is murdered and he sets off on a mission of revenge. With the lead character’s ambition crystal clear, it leaves little room for Michael B. Jordan to portray anything bud sadness. So it would be up to the supporting cast to balance the film’s emotions, but even actors like Guy Pearce and Jamie Bell couldn’t do much with this script
Even the action in “Without Remorse” looks cheap and uninspired. The potential for some exciting action sequences was there, but the film resorts to a bunch of shoot-outs like the ones you can see on any television show. Many of these scenes last so long that they end up becoming boring. And just like in the recent “Mortal Kombat,” many of the action scenes are badly lit, making it nearly impossible to make up what is going on or who is in the shot.
In the end, it’s probably a good thing that ” Without Remorse” went straight to streaming rather than hitting theaters. Even in a normal world, I think this movie would’ve had a difficult time at the box and the word of mouth would have been mixed at best. Michael B. Jordan and the rest of the cast do what they can, but with a weak script and uninspiring direction, this movie is one of the biggest disappointments of the year.
: Without Remorse” grade: C-