Streaming on Amazon Prime April 30.
The origin story of John Clark, an elite Navy SEAL who uncovers an international conspiracy while seeking justice for the murder of his pregnant wife. After a squad of Russian soldiers kills his family in retaliation for his role in a top-secret operation, Sr. Chief John Kelly (Michael B. Jordan) pursues the assassins. He joins forces with a fellow SEAL (Jodie Turner Smith), and is forced to work with a shadowy CIA agent (Jamie Bell), as they uncover a covert plot that threatens to engulf the U.S. and Russia in an all-out war.
Twenty years before he died in 2013, military espionage novelist Tom Clancy wrote “Without Remorse,” using Navy Seal John Clark to rescue POWs and go after the drug lords that killed his girlfriend.
This new movie, “Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse,” is not that story, set in Vietnam War in 1970, although it retains the title.
The 1993 book, spun off from the Jack Ryan series, is updated by screenwriters Taylor Sheridan and Will Staples to modern day. They attempt to reignite the Cold War, but other than unveiling Michael B. Jordan as the latest action franchise hero, it is a wobbly by-the-numbers procedural with generic Russian Nationals villains.
Besides an intense, bulked-up Jordan as a hell-bent avenger, the film has several nail-biting set pieces: An escape from a shot-down plane in the Bering Sea and an over-matched confrontation in his jail cell show Jordan’s strengths as the quick-thinking, resourceful fighter.
The best is a car inferno extracting information about his wife’s killer from a protected Russian bureaucrat. Director Stefano Sollima, who did the 2018 Sicario sequel “Day of the Soldado, “smoothly handles the clashes.
The elite team, however, doesn’t have any memorable players who distinguish themselves because they are only there to service the action and the principals in the extended dark, hazy shoot-outs.
The ubiquitous Russian Mob is pulling the strings – and the muddled plot lacks imagination as to why Navy SEALS who carry out a mission in Aleppo are the targets in the U.S., thus sparking a conflict between the two countries. But some sort of convoluted conspiracy is what is driving it all.
Pulling off a post-Cold War plot these days isn’t easy – we are beyond what Clancy wrote about in his heyday, although our current relationship with Russia isn’t good. But is this what passes for contemporary tension?
With such a routine formula and nondescript dialogue, the only thing to hold on to is the performances, and the cast is a good one, although you can pick out who the turncoats are quickly. In a change of pace, Jamie Bell, reuniting with his 2015 “Fantastic Four” co-star Jordan, plays a suspicious no-nonsense CIA field boss while Guy Pearce is hamstrung in a standard role as the Director of Defense calling the shots.
The only reason for this film is to set up future sequels helmed by Jordan, whose formidable screen presence, as he has shown in the “Creed” series, “Just Mercy” and “Black Panther,” will continue to be strong,
Pay attention in the credits when they tease “Rainbow Six,” coming up next. Let’s hope this will be better material to work with as they move forward.