Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse, 2021.
Directed by Stefano Sollima.
Starring Michael B. Jordan, Jamie Bell, Jodie Turner-Smith, Cam Gigandet, Jack Kesy, Brett Gelman, Jacob Scipio, Luke Mitchell, Colman Domingo, Lauren London, Adrian Rawlins, Todd Lasance, Lucy Russell, Merab Ninidze, George Asprey, Artjom Gilz, Alexander Mercury, James Ballanger, and Guy Pearce.
John Clark, a Navy SEAL, goes on a path to avenge his wife’s murder only to find himself inside of a larger conspiracy.
Whatever inclination there is to follow along with the plot of Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse dissipates as soon as Michael B. Jordan’s vengeance-driven disgraced Navy SEALs officer John Clark (a well-known character in Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan book universe, known for establishing Rainbow Six which is also the endgame here to presumably cash in on the wide-reaching popularity of the video game franchise) obtains the name of a Russian assassin involved with the fridging of his pregnant partner Pam Kelly (Lauren London), only to magically know his location in the next scene getting into a heated confrontation (in more ways than one) where he gets yet another name related to the murders of his loved ones and teammates.
There is most definitely some sketchy government involvement going on and technically a story (it might be the worst thing the otherwise fantastic Taylor Sheridan has written, but still competent enough), but it’s all so standard and mechanical that you will just be sitting there nodding your head waiting for Michael B. Jordan to get back into the field. The good news is that the Creed star came to play, bringing everything from swagger to ruthless brutality to a dangerous military skillset involving stylistic gun-fu, hard-hitting CQC, and some impressive control of breath underwater. There’s a staggering amount of force he brings to every single movement, whether choking someone out with his legs and a rifle wrapped around the throat or charging down a set of stairs tackling someone into a wall. For plenty, this would be a throwaway action vehicle, and in some respects, nothing Michael B. Jordan does can save it from that fate, but he’s committed all the same like he’s working on his next Oscar hopeful role.
The action is also never allowed to stagnate as the nature of the story sees John starting off as a precise killer (there’s an opening mission stacked with clear cinematography of nimble movements, stealthy maneuvers, and headshots) to less tactical and messier as revenge takes over his mind. For reasons, the CIA has decided against pursuing justice against the fallen; three of the four are now dead with the remaining becoming a point of obsession for John. Nevertheless, he does have a friend in SEAL partner Karen Greer (Jodie Turner-Smith) slipping in confidential information that she is privy to. Also present is a CIA agent (Jamie Bell) that could be playing both sides, Guy Pearce as another high-ranking member of the CIA, and a host of military personnel backing John up.
Disappointingly, for a film that consists of shady white operatives pulling strings in the background, not much is made about the fact that not only are John and Karen both pawns but that they are also Black trying to do good inside a system corrupted by white superiors. Director Stefano Sollima (recently having collaborated with Taylor Sheridan on Sicario: Day of the Soldado) does make up for the script shortcomings by reflecting John’s clouded state of mind through the numerous gritty set pieces. It should also be stressed that Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse more than earns its R rating on violence alone; there’s a shot where someone gets run over by a van while taking out the trash captured with such forceful impact it’s enough to make anyone wince.
That’s not to say to Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse is a sophisticated action romp, as it revels in machismo conflict. However, it is nice that John’s newly adopted code that seemingly amounts to ‘kill first and don’t even bother asking questions’ has consequences. The film certainly embraces all the carnage and bloodshed (Michael B. Jordan gets one hell of a last stand towards the climax that brings to mind Brian De Palma’s Scarface), but it’s also not endorsing the rationale that brings him to these predicaments. That’s rare for action fodder, so even if the government betrayal nonsense is run-of-the-mill, Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse does come with a few pearls of basic wisdom against reckless abandon in the name of vengeance. Plus, Michael B. Jordan kicks so much ass while having a blast doing so, it’s all infectious fun.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com