REVIEW: Without Remorse (2021)
Michael B. Jordan has managed to crack every single franchise he’s put his name to. His success with Creed has him set for a third round that’ll also see him in the director’s chair, and not only was he the best thing in Black Panther, his portrayal as Kilmonger made him one of the top tier villains of the MCU (that wasn’t obsessed with an overly charged mitten). His latest endeavour sees him playing another lethal weapon, only this time fighting for the good guys in Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse, and while it may well scream film series starter, there’s no question that this one is not without its flaws heading straight out the gate.
A Tom Clancy favourite over the years, John Clark has appeared in over twenty of the author’s books and been portrayed by Willem Dafoe in Clear and Present Danger and Liev Schreiber in The Sum of All Fears on screen. This time, Without Remorse sees Jordan bringing Clark to the centre stage as the battle-hardened hero in his debut story, certifying that this is a man not to be trifled with. After returning from a super shady mission that saw him capping Russians for reasons he isn’t exactly sure on, he returns home only for his brief stint of peace time to be shattered. After narrowly escaping a John Wick-like home invasion that sees him suffer similar casualties, Clark switches to one-man-army mode bent on taking names and bodies down on whatever Call of Duty-looking location he finds himself in. Still, as Clark’s bloodlust slowly starts to be quenched, our hero soon realises that he’s not the only one crossing lines, and that some shifty suits from within the government itself, could well be helping to grant the death wish Clark finds himself on.
So far, so many action films you’ve seen before. That’s the glaringly prominent issue with Without Remorse that it makes no effort to avoid as soon as Jordan takes his first shot. He’s every hardcore hero you can think of that has strolled away from an explosion without looking back. A juggernaut on a mission of vengeance that trusts no one and can kill just about anyone that gives him a funny look. Although, with it being Jordan walking the walk, you’re compelled to stick around. He’s clearly having fun as the no-nonsense action man and it’s hard not to get infected by it. Instances like seeing him get ready to take on a handful of guards with nothing but a bathroom sink and a towel is a hype-inducing moment, with Sicario 2 and Gomorrah director Stefano Sollima sparking the same frenetic energy we’ve seen in his previous work. One particular shootout with a sniper actually comes with a dose of terror, as every shot fired on our lead and his co-stars comes with all the ferocity of a missile tearing through their defences. As intense as that may be, it’s the clunky scenes connecting the film’s big set pieces that hinder both the pace, and the performances pulling it along.
Given the cast involved here, it really does feel like an opportunity wasted that could’ve added a sharper edge to Without Remorse’s arsenal. Jordan unquestionably carries the film on his stupidly defined ‘teach us mere mortals how to replicate that’ back, but there’s no real time spent fleshing out his character. Clark is one angry man yelling at various other snivelling men who throw names, locations and prayers for their life and none of it comes with a sliver of originality to make him stand out. As for his co-stars, Jodie Turner-Smith as Clark’s buddy in the battlefield Karen Greer, is stale, making very little impact on proceedings. If Clark really did manage to go it alone as much as he’s set on, you’d hardly notice if she was gone. The same can be said for Jordan’s former Fantastic 4 co-star Jamie Bell, as untrustworthy Robert Ritter, whose threats of details being ‘classified’ and ‘need to know’ set the formulaic friction between the two that conjures regular eye rolls. As a result, any attempt at tension feels a failed one, with only Guy Pearce as top dog from Washington calling the shots having a go to stir the pot a little, in just the right way, but even that goes as expected.
Ultimately, if this is Amazon’s first attempt to light a franchise with Jordan, it’s a slight fumble off the starting block. Perhaps taking the route with their other Clancy property – John Krasinski starring drama, Jack Ryan, could’ve been a better approach. The chance was there for a planned out, well-paced thriller to make Jordan’s character one you’d actually want to see return, rather than the gung-ho, but equally ho-hum viewing, which you could easily go without seeing.
Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse will be Launching Globally on Prime Video April 30th, 2021