Synopsis: A U.S. Navy SEAL joins up with the CIA to settle a score.
Welcome to Without Remorse — correction: Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse. This will help distinguish it from Jane Austen’s Without Remorse, a thrilling book about a declined social invitation. This Without Remorse is a military thriller based (loosely) on the 1993 book of the same title. It’s the origin story of a Navy SEAL who goes to work for the CIA.
Michael B. Jordan stars as John Kelly (later, John Clark), a virtuous military man equipped with elite fighting skills. The film begins with MBJ and his team being dropped into Aleppo, Syria to rescue an American operative from Syrian forces. They charge into a bombed-out building blasting their way though enemy soldiers and make the rescue.
Author Tom Clancy’s books were set during the Cold War, so the Soviets were the usual foils. The Russians are still the bad guys here, but the Without Remorse book was partially set in 1970 Vietnam and also involved the hero falling for a stateside drug-addicted sex worker and killing a bunch of pimps and pushers. Her name was Pam; now she’s the hero’s pregnant wife but, presumably, without the melodramatic backstory.
MBJ’s higher-ups , like CIA officer Robert Ritter (Jamie Bell) and Sec. of Defense Thomas Clay (Guy Pearse) want to keep him in the dark, but he quickly figures out just about everything. It won’t be long before he’s yelling to no one in particular: It was a set-up!
Back on American soil, MBJ enjoys some downtime with his very pregnant wife Pam at a family cook-out. (The film keeps all of the book’s WASPy names, circa 1960.) Maybe they can name the baby Karen after MBJ’s fellow SEAL, Lt. Cdr. Karen Greer (Jodie Turner-Smith). We’ll see her lead missions (where MBJ inevitably goes rogue) and spill the tea from classified documents to him at every turn.
Uh, oh, it looks like someone is targeting the guys who were on the Aleppo mission. Watch out MBJ! He and his wife are so happy, it would just be wrong for anyone to try and wipe them out. But if something bad does happen to anyone MBJ cares about, you can be sure that he will be out for justice. And blood. But first he would have to release all of his grief in one long, manly yell: ARRRGHGH!
What follows are lots of explosions, shoot-outs and hand-to-hand combat. MBJ is in great shape and no time is wasted in him taking off his shirt. I thought it might happen at the cookout party, but producers find an even better reason than climbing temps for him to partially disrobe; he needs his shirt to defend himself. He runs his t-shirt under water, flings it around like pizza dough and shapes it into some sort of heavy bludgeoning rope. MBJ also puts his acting skills to use when he smashes people against walls while hollering, You think this is a game?! Later, he monologues using extensive chess metaphors like, Pawns don’t kill kings. Or do they??
WARNING: People who have rabies or are otherwise hydrophobic should probably skip this movie; there are many impressive, yet scary water stunts. After all, MBJ’s character is a Navy SEAL. Prepare for all manner of MBJ-occupied transport to end up in the drink which allows MBJ to swim under water for long periods of time like some sort of Aquaman.
Our relentless hero does make it back to land occasionally to rampage through D.C and Russia telling people they’re going to play by his rules now and looking for someone named “Viktor” who is perhaps a myth. I was hoping Viktor would turn out to be Kenneth Branagh playing -yet again- a powerful and merciless Russian who says things to his rivals like: You and I, we need each other. Do you think our meeting is a coincidence?
It always amazes me that there can be movies that are non-stop action and they somehow end up rather boring. I’m afraid that can happen with one dimensional characters, tired plotting and clichéd dialog. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to do some Navy SEAL training that involves crashing a bike into a pool.
P.S. In this interview author Tom Clancy made a good case for why people called him a jerk. Eg., When a former naval intelligence officer (Clancy was an insurance salesman before selling his first book) refuted Clancy’s claims of how well weapons actually worked vs Clancy’s depiction, he said: “I make more money in a day than you make in a year.” Wow, what a skilled debater.
Movie Loon Movie Review Shortcut:
Cut to the Chase: Good actors wasted in a by-the-numbers action flick.
Humor Highlight: Some blowhard telling our Navy SEAL patriot that he takes American freedoms for granted. As if!