Saturday, July 10, 2021

Hotchka Movie Review: Tom Clancy's Without Remorse

© Amazon Prime Video

Without Remorse is the latest attempt to ignite the Tom Clancy universe nobody has been asking for.
by Jeremy Fogelman

Cast: Michael B. Jordan, Jamie Bell, Jodie Turner-Smith, Lauren London, Brett Gelman, Jacob Scipio, Jack Kesy, Colman Domingo, Todd Lassance, Cam Gigandet, Luke Mitchell and Guy Pearce

So how many reboots have there been for the ‘Tom Clancyverse’ (which I think is actually called the ‘Ryanverse’) over the years? In the movies first it was Alec Baldwin playing Jack Ryan, then Harrison Ford, then reboot #1 with Ben Affleck and reboot #2 with Chris Pine, and of course there’s the TV show with John Krasinski that’s still going. That Chris Pine movie was not good, although it had an entirely original script, unlike the first movies. It’s a move that’s potentially very risky, and ultimately, maybe impossible to avoid.

Tom Clancy's Without Remorse comes from director Stefano Sollima and writers Taylor Sheridan and Will Stapes, ostensibly being adapted from the 1993 book of the same name by Clancy. However, other than the main character being named John Clark, nothing is remotely the same. The book is about a white guy who has to deal with a bunch of pimps and early 90s nonsense -- naturally I’m unsurprised that the movie handles it differently.

Here John is played by Michael B. Jordan, and the movie starts off with him leading a team of fellow Navy SEALs on a secret mission to Syria to rescue a mysterious hostage from Russians. Back at home, we get a slight amount of character development with John and his pregnant wife Pam (Lauren London), his various interchangeable team members, and his superior officer Karen (Jodie Turner-Smith).

The movie actually “starts” with a classic “fridging” moment when a bunch of masked soldiers kill everyone on John’s team and invade his home -- they kill his pregnant wife and seriously injure him. John manages to kill all but one of the men but sees his face (Brett Gelman) before they escape. It’s a classic very bad driving motivator for a character -- his pregnant wife is killed so now he’s going to get results by “any means necessary”.

Cue scene with Karen with clunky dialogue about serving America while being black, which feels forced in there because the fact that John and Karen are black has nothing to do with anything else in the movie. John gets sent on a mission to find his killers by CIA officer Robert (Jamie Bell) and the Secretary of Defense (Guy Pearce), so there are quite a few good actors here completely wasted.

We get perhaps one scene where Michael B. Jordan gets to act, when he’s momentarily screaming in grief, and then it’s mostly acceptable action scenes and muddled conspiracy nonsense for the rest of the movie. The “twists” of the movie, if they can charitably even be called that, are unoriginal, uninteresting, and mostly nonsensical. Just typical “we’re all pawns” sort of talk.

If you’re hoping for exciting action scenes, it’s probably also disappointing because they’re all fairly repetitive and milquetoast. Nothing remotely John Wick adjacent here -- and nothing that really takes advantage of the lead actor’s inherent charisma. We even get a mid-credits tease for the next movie in the franchise, which I recognized as a reference even though it felt a lot like the post-credits tease of the Super Mario Brothers movie, except that this sequel might actually get made (it’s technically been announced).

Unfortunately I really do have the majority of the issues on the very weak script, and it’s hard to say enough about that. Taylor Sheridan has done some decent writing, but he’s also done some clunkers, and Will Staples has only a little -- neither has done this sort of spy/conspiracy writing, and although there’s a first time for everything, the conspiracy here is really just 'nothing sauce'. I could even forgive it if the action scenes were exciting and dynamic, but they’re really just okay. It’s too bad, I was hoping for a better franchise opportunity for Michael B. Jordan, but I’m sure he’ll find something else in the future.

Without Remorse has a run time of 1 hour 49 minutes and is rated R for violence. The film is streaming exclusively on Amazon Prime Video.

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