One doesn't pick up a Tom Clancy novel in the year 2021 to try and experience something new. The iconic author helped to transform the action genre with characters like Jack Ryan and John Clark, but it's been a long time since those names were anything resembling innovative. Sure, the Rainbow Six video games breathed some new life into these stories, but we mostly return to the likes of Clancy's tales simply because they're familiar. The same goes for adaptations of Clancy's works, regardless of which beloved actor is leading the charge.
In Tom Clancy's Without Remorse, hitting Amazon Prime Video on April 30th, Michael B. Jordan takes on the role of John Kelly (a.k.a. John Clark), the second-most popular character in Clancy canon. Jordan is one of the most likable film stars on the planet, carrying an aura of humanity that compels you to love him on-screen. Jordan is one of the few stars of our time that can truly carry a film on their shoulders, which he proves on countless occasions in the latest Clancy adaptation.
In Without Remorse, John Kelly and his team are hunted down three months after a botched mission, resulting in the murder of his pregnant wife. Miraculously, Kelly survives the attack, and goes on a one-man warpath to find out who was behind the attacks, hoping to exact revenge on his wife's killer.
There's nothing new or, honestly, very interesting in this military thriller, which once again uses the death of a woman to fuel the actions of a male protagonist. This is just the first of many tropes in Without Remorse, most of which have been staples of Clancy's work for decades. John is a one-of-a-kind soldier that no one knows how to control. There's something sinister happening at the CIA that inevitably ties everything together. The character who seems hell-bent on stopping John ends up on his side while the obnoxiously friendly government official isn't who he reveals himself to be. There's quite literally no way to doubt that this is a Clancy project.
Everything in the plot of Without Remorse is average and predictable, and it's hard not to wonder at times, "Who asked for this?" Nothing here is new or all that necessary, a disappointing thought when you remember that Sicario and Hell or High Water scribe Taylor Sheridan penned the script (along with Will Staples). Sheridan's usually razor-sharp edge is completely missing from this one, and director Stefano Sollima doesn't do a whole lot to elevate the action sequences, most of which fall into the "pretty good but nothing I'll remember tomorrow" category.
Then there's Jordan, in the center of the film, somehow compelling you to like it.
Honestly, I don't know how to explain it. When I break down the individual pieces of Without Remorse, it's not all that great. All of the creative and technical aspects, on their own, are remarkably average. But when I pull back and look at the film as a whole, something changes. There isn't a bad performance in Without Remorse, though some are better than others. Guy Pearce is every bit as Guy Pearce as you expect him to be. Jamie Bell is fine at some points, excellent at others. Colman Domingo doesn't get nearly enough screen time (he should swiftly replace whoever was named the new Most Interesting Man in the World). Queen & Slim breakout Jodie-Turner Smith does a great job with what she's given, and then there's Jordan, who brings them all together and makes Without Remorse work.
Don't mistake me: this is far from Michael B. Jordan's best performance. John Kelly has nothing on Adonis Creed, Bryan Stevenson, or Erik Killmonger. That's part of what makes Jordan's innate ability to single-handedly wrestle a movie into submission so utterly impressive. He doesn't have to deliver one of his greatest performances to make things work. He simply has to show up, work hard, and be his outrageously magnetic self.
Michael B. Jordan is the sun around which the rest of the Without Remorse galaxy revolves, putting the entire film on his broad, glowing shoulders and forcing it all to work as it should. Remove him from the situation and everything else drifts into the darkness of space, devoid of any trace of life.
Rating: 3 out of 5
Tom Clancy's Without Remorse will be released on April 30th, only on Prime Video.