Toward the middle of Amazon’s new film Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse, a team of Navy Seals is shot down in their aircraft, crash landing in the ocean. Our hero Jack Kelly (Michael B. Jordan), stays behind as the rest of the crew disembark in an orderly fashion out the back of the sinking plane. Kelly holds his breath and ties life jackets to a suitcase. Then he takes another breath from a small air pocket and sits calmly in the water. He’s thinking of an escape plan, and the film, once again, comes crashing to a halt as dullness overwhelms an otherwise life-threatening situation.
This meandering thriller about a Navy Seals officer who, after his wife and unborn child are brutally murdered, seeks revenge on their killer is as confusing as it is superficial. Characters are purposely deceitful to make you think they have hostile intentions. At the same time, the central mystery of why Kelly’s wife was brutally murdered, along with two other Navy Seals, is never entirely clear. But what fails the incredible talents of Michael B. Jordan, Jodie Turner-Smith, and Jamie Bell is the script by Taylor Sheridan and Will Staples. A late shoot-out in the film’s climax at an apartment building in Russia drags on so long that I wondered if the script had a series of ellipses in place of the action.
Without Remorse has very little to be recommended besides a delicious fight scene in prison where a shirtless Michael B. Jordan takes on a barrage of guards. He lets the facet run as he splashes himself with water, readying for battle, and I thought how interesting it would be if Jordan’s Jack Kelly went undercover at Magic Mike‘s Xquisite Strip Club in a sequel.
I’m just spit-balling some ideas.
Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse is a spinoff to his Jack Ryan series, only with the John Clark character reimagined as Jack Kelly. He is a Navy Seal, and we meet him and his team, including his superior officer Karen Greer (Jodie Turner-Smith). They attempt a rescue mission in Syria, realize it was Russians holding the prisoner hostage, and upon returning to the US, the Russians want revenge. Two Navy Seals are killed, and Kelly was supposed to be the third but survives. His wife Pam (Lauren London) and unborn child, however, are tragically killed. One of the assailants gets away, and Kelly will stop at nothing to ensure he ends up dead.
Considering the logline to this film is Kelly seeking revenge after his wife and unborn child are killed, it’s easy to see where this all goes. What was surprising was the lack of character development and reliance on Jordan to add dimension to his character and relationships through his emotions alone. After he returns home following his wife’s murder, he pounds his fists on the floor and ugly cries. Unfortunately, we have met Pam for a couple of scenes and don’t know enough about Kelly to invest in his journey and for this scene to have its intended effect. But it doesn’t matter, Kelly will become a killing machine, and that is that. Without context for Kelly’s relationships, developing his sense of morality, and how it’s flipped upside-down, we are left with a human killing machine.
In an era where streaming services endeavor to gain audiences amongst the various options available, Amazon Studios seems to struggle to find the voice that separates it from other services. There will always be audiences watching movies at home, but without a memorable differentiation, it’s difficult to see how Amazon acquires more viewership beyond the already subscribed Amazon customers. Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse is yet another bland thriller to add to its film library, and with a lead like Michael B. Jordan, it could’ve been so much more.