I suppose I should use the official title, Tom Clancy's Without Remorse, but I'm feeling ornery. This was a real disappointment, and that shouldn't be the case. I had no expectations going in, had glanced at the negative reviews, and honestly, outside of The Hunt for Red October, I don't think I've seen any Clancy-related movies because he doesn't interest me. But I got my hopes up nonetheless, because I've been a fan of Michael B. Jordan since The Wire, and I liked all of Jordan's movies I'd seen up to this point.
Well, Jordan doesn't stink in Without Remorse, and I hope for his sake the film is popular and turns into a franchise for him. But it's a waste to take one of the most charismatic actors we have and give him a part that any lunk could have played. Jordan isn't asked to do anything but act badass in action scenes that might have impressed back in the 80s, when people like Arnold and Stallone were cranking out a couple of these a year. But in an age of Fury Road and the Raid movies, something as mundane as this no longer gets it. We've seen a handful of fairly recent action flicks during the Geezer Cinema era, and with few exceptions they all run together in a forgettable way. Letterboxd tags 24 of the 91-and-counting Geezer Movies as fitting into the Action genre, and half of them have been mediocre at best. There have been some pleasant surprises that keep me coming back for more (Underwater and The Old Guard, two 2020 movies starring Kristen Stewart and Charlize Theron respectively, were quite enjoyable movies about which I had no higher expectations going in than I did for Without Remorse). Point being that I am perfectly ready to enjoy a dumb action movie nowadays ... not everything is going to be Fury Road, I know that.
But Without Remorse isn't good or bad enough to win me over. It ticks off a lot of the plot points you know are coming before they happen. I'm often lost in the plots of these international "thrillers", and even I was calling things in advance. (We meet Jordan's wife in an early scene ... I immediately say, "She's going to die". And when it turns out she's pregnant, well that seals things. Yeah, that's a spoiler ... like I say, I'm feeling ornery.) In fairness, not everyone I thought was a bad guy turned out to be bad, but even that's a standard trick, isn't it?
A movie like this, that buries its star, relies on its action scenes, and Sollima doesn't give us even one scene that we remember the next day. I realize I'm spoiled by now ... movies like The Raids 1 and 2 have memorable scenes pretty much non-stop. But Without Remorse never comes close. If you had told me I'd ever see a movie with Michael B. Jordan that I mostly laughed at while watching, I'd have said you were nuts. Now I know better.
(There's an inside joke for fans of the old NYPD Blue show, although it may have been unintentional. Jordan plays a man named John Kelly ... his undercover name becomes John Clark.)