The 400-Word Review: Without Remorse
By Sean Collier
April 29, 2021

Without Remorse

The long arm of the late Tom Clancy, one of the most ubiquitous paperback writers of the 20th century, stretches beyond the grave and continues to infiltrate pop culture. Film and television adaptations, video games and even new books — written by other writers with the blessing of Clancy’s estate — continue the author’s tradition, placing square-jawed men of action in labyrinthine global conspiracies.

After seeing “Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse,” a prospective franchise-starter debuting on Amazon Prime, I wonder how many of these works are riddled with tired cliches and contrived setups. This, nominally one of Clancy’s most significant stories — it’s an origin for his well-traveled character John Clark — has a plot that does not so much move as lurch, propelled thoughtlessly from one deus ex machina to the next.

Michael B. Jordan and Jodie Turner-Smith try to keep the ship above water purely on their own charisma. They come close, admittedly, but nothing can bear the weight of this clunky story.

Clark (Jordan), nee Kelly — the character’s more well-known name is a pseudonym — is the thinly-drawn special forces type typical of these tales. When a mission in eastern Europe goes sideways, he realizes he has made enemies of elite Russian military figures; when those same post-Soviet baddies come to the United States for revenge, he begins to suspect there’s more to the scenario than meets the eye.

He’s got a high-ranking military ally (Turner-Smith) and a “that’s classified”-type CIA foil (Jamie Bell), through which things chug along from set piece to set piece and twist to twist. It’s a sort of self-contained story, though not an interesting one — you’ll fully check out by the third act — but “Without Remorse” is mostly designed to set up further adventures of Jordan as Clark, a bit of overly optimistic universe-building telegraphed in the de rigueur mid-credits stinger.

Along the way, everything has the specter of suspense without ever earning it — a gun conveniently runs out of bullets, an unbelievable plan leads to an inevitable action spectacle, a pregnant wife is killed to give Clark motivation. (That’s the film’s cardinal sin; if you have to kill off a family to motivate your protagonist, you didn’t write a good enough protagonist.) A game cast keeps “Without Remorse” from getting truly noxious; unfortunately, they’re the only part of the film that doesn’t feel both exhausted and exhausting.

My Rating: 4/10

“Without Remorse” is now streaming on Amazon Prime.