WITHOUT REMORSE (2021) is without a clue.
Yup, this new thriller, based on the Tom Clancy novel and starring Michael B. Jordan, starts off well but then quickly deteriorates into a muddled mess of confusion and cliches that ultimately sinks this one beyond the point of rescue.
Perhaps the biggest head-scratcher of all is that the screenplay was written by Taylor Sheridan, one of the best screenwriters working today. His screenplays include SICARIO (2015), HELL OR HIGH WATER (2016), and WIND RIVER (2017). He’s also the creative mind behind the TV series YELLOWSTONE (2018- ). Yet the screenplay for WITHOUT REMORSE is pretty bad. Really bad. Again, it’s a head-scratcher. Well, I guess we’re all entitled to a dud once in a while.
WITHOUT REMORSE, now available on Prime Video, opens with a Navy SEAL rescue mission in Syria in which the elite soldiers discover they have just extracted a person from Russian special forces rather than from Syrian soldiers as they were told. This doesn’t sit well with soldier John Kelly (Michael B. Jordan) who calls out their CIA operative Robert Ritter (Jamie Bell) who had provided them with the intel on the mission, and Ritter’s cavalier response does nothing to assuage Kelly’s misgivings about the error in intel.
Kelly’s instincts prove accurate, as later Russian forces seek out and kill members of the Navy SEALS team. When they get to Kelly’s home, Kelly survives the attack, but his pregnant wife and unborn child do not. Kelly then makes it his mission to seek out answers, to find out who murdered his wife and unborn child and why, and to do this, he will proceed without remorse.
Blah, blah, blah.
Actually, I enjoyed the beginning to this movie. Up to the murder of Kelly’s wife and unborn child, this movie had me. I was intrigued by the opening, and I was primed and ready to go along for the ride with Kelly as he took no prisoners on his way in search of answers and retribution. But it’s here where the film drops the ball and completely unravels, which is not a good thing since this makes up the bulk of the movie.
So, what went wrong? The story, for starters. None of it is all that convincing, and the reasons for the original mission and the whole Russian connection remain muddled and unclear. The storytelling just isn’t very sharp, which is again very surprising since Taylor Sheridan wrote the screenplay. Sheridan’s films also usually have a strong subtext which make them work on a much deeper level. There is no subtext here.
There are plenty of action scenes, and the violence is way up there, but sadly none of these scenes really resonated with me. The sound editing was pretty good though. The sound effects, especially the gun fire, were loud and effective. My living room sounded like a war zone. Unfortunately, visually, these sequences weren’t anything special.
Director Stefano Sollima includes plenty of hard-hitting violent scenes of gun battles and killing, but in terms of cinematic choreography, none of it wowed me.
I did like Michael B. Jordan in the lead role as John Kelly. A lot. In fact, his performance is the best part of the entire movie, and about the only reason to watch this one. He makes Kelly’s plight believable, as you really feel for the guy. He sweats intensity. He also looks the part, and is very believable as an uncontrollable elite soldier. Jordan is a terrific actor who I enjoy a lot. He was especially notable in the lead role in the recent CREED movies where he plays Apollo Creed’s son in the continuation of the Sylvester Stallone ROCKY series. One of my favorite roles though of Jordan’s was his turn as the villain Erik Killmonger in Marvel’s BLACK PANTHER (2016). Not only did he play one of Marvel’s best movie villains to date, but he also arguably outshined Chadwick Boseman’s lead character Black Panther.
On the other hand, no one else in the cast really stands out. Jodie Turner-Smith is okay as Kelly’s SEAL’s leader Karen Greer, but the role isn’t written all that well, and the character never really comes to life.
Jamie Bell is actually very good as shadowy CIA operative Robert Ritter, but again, he’s done in by some lackluster writing. Guy Pearce also adds some solid moments as Secretary Clay.
The inferior script was co-written by Taylor Sheridan and Will Staples, based on Tom Clancy’s novel of the same name. And that’s the other thing that’s surprising about this film not having much depth, that it’s based on a novel.
I was extremely disappointed with WITHOUT REMORSE. While I certainly didn’t hate it, as watching Michael B. Jordan’s performance certainly kept me at least partially interested, I can’t say I enjoyed it all that much.
Without much to like, WITHOUT REMORSE is simply without merit. Which means, in terms of my recommendation, it goes…. without.