Without Remorse is based on the 1993 Tom Clancy novel of the same name. It’s fitting the novel was written in the early 90’s, the film is a throwback to the early 90’s action films that flooded theaters and currently live on basic cable.
The story follows John Clark (Michal B Jordan), a member of the Navy SEALs. After an operation in Syria, Clark and members of his team are targeted by a squad of Russian assassins. After barely surviving the attack, and losing his wife (played by Lauren London), John goes on a rampage to avenge her death and finds himself tangled in a deeper conspiracy.
First, Without Remorse is the kind of film Steven Segal or Jean-Claude Van Damme would’ve made in the mid 90s. Or something Michael Bay would’ve made in the early 2000s. Basically, it’s a film audiences have seen before in different variations.
Secondly, and more importantly, it doesn’t try to be anything more than what it is. When building an uncomplicated revenge film, you need a few things – a hero with a purpose, his trusted friend(s), a big bad, and a few shady characters.
That hero is John Clark. He’s a focused individual that wants revenge on the people that killed his wife. Michael B Jordan is really solid in this role. He’s not asked to do too much other than be physically imposing when he needs to and to make all of the action believable. Check and Check.
John’s trusted friend is Queen and Slim’s Jodie Turner-Smith as Lt. Commander Greer. Turner-Smith is perfect for this role. It’s really hard to waste and actor as talented as her, yet the film finds a way to not use her enough. Turner-Smith could’ve been used to help fill in the non action scenes. Hopefully she’ll have a bigger role if there is a sequel.
The big bad is a shady character the film doesn’t spend a lot of time on….however the shadiest of shady characters is CIA officer Robert Miller (Jamie Bell). Who knew Jamie could play this role so well? He’s so untrustworthy and irritating the entire time he’s onscreen. Jordan and Bell have really good chemistry onscreen. The interactions between John and Miller are the best parts of the film. I could watch the two of them verbally (or physically) sparring for 90 minutes.
With a runtime of just under 2 hours, the film packs as much action as it can during the first two acts. The third act has the best sequence that involves John and his team pinned down by two snipers. Not only is the sequence well shot, it’s the one scene that makes you wonder how they’ll survive. Unfortunately the end of the film is bogged down by a plotline that’s purpose is to set up a franchise or at least one sequel. It’s understandable why films do this, but it doesn’t stop from it cheapening the stakes we’re seeing onscreen.
Without Remorse is an entertaining action thriller that delivers more action than thrills. It’s a revenge story that’s more John Rambo than John Wick. It’s a throwback to films of the past that isn’t offering anything new. It’s not a bad thing…it just feels like a film out of time when compared to recent action blockbusters. If it came out in the 90s, there would’ve have been at least two sequels and one straight to VHS release. There is definitely an audience for this film. Time will tell if this audience will be enough to build a franchise.