The Movie Guru: Michael B. Jordan can’t save ‘Without Remorse’
Hollywood, I’m begging you — give Michael B. Jordan a better action movie franchise than this.
I agree completely that both Jordan and the audience deserve to watch him star in an entire string of action movies where he beats up bad guys and saves the day. He’s electric in every movie he’s in, and if Boseman had been slightly less amazing we all would have wanted him to win in “Black Panther.” In fact, he’s probably the new Bruce Willis the genre is still desperately trying to look for.
But “Without Remorse,” which premieres on Amazon Prime this Friday, is not the right movie to try and make this happen. Though there are a few suitably splashy action sequences, the majority of the movie is a confusing, heartless mess that is supposedly propelled by emotions the script never bothers to make sure we feel. Jordan does everything he can to inject his character with some depth and feeling, but with the entire rest of the movie fighting him there’s only so much he can do. I came here wanting to watch a battle, but not that one.
Though it’s billed as an adaptation of a Tom Clancy novel, the only real similarities between the movie and the book are the title and Kelly’s poor dead wife. This version starts with John Kelly (Jordan) and his team on a dramatic secret mission for the government. Things seem to be successful, but as soon as they get stateside again most of them are killed in a series of assassinations that also lead to Kelly’s wife and unborn child dying. When the government won’t let Kelly go get vengeance, he takes it himself and jumps into a tangled government conspiracy.
In the right hands, it could have been gripping, occasionally emotional and deeply satisfying. However, the hands that are delivering “Without Remorse” to audiences are a screenwriting team known for shooting video games and “Sicario,” which was basically a shooting video game in movie form. The director is best known for the Sicario” sequel, which basically looked at the cold, emotionless brutality of the original and decided it needed twice as much. All of this is very much evident in the movie, which is a series of brutal battles strung together by a barely coherent plot and dialogue scenes that no one bothers to pay attention to.
There are action movies that could get away with this – sometimes, you just want to see absolute mayhem – but the engine propelling most of this film is supposed to be Kelly’s grief and rage over his wife’s death. Jordan makes the most of the few minutes he’s allowed to grieve, but the movie gives us so little time to know either of them as people that we never get the sense of what he’s actually lost. If the role was being played by someone even slightly less talented than Jordan, Kelly would be little more than a homicidal robot.
The government conspiracy, usually at least a mildly interesting part of any Clancy story, is even more of a mess. The best ones are puzzles that leave the audience gasping when they figure it out, but here the entire thing was created by a random plot generator. There’s nothing to figure out here, because there’s no larger meaning that matters to anyone. It’s all just there to give Kelly the chance to shoot someone else.
Honestly, I think I could really enjoy seeing Jordan shoot bad guys. Unfortunately, he needs a better movie to do it in.
Rated: R for violence
Screenplay and screen story by: Taylor Sheridan and Will Staples, based on the novel by Tom Clancy
Directed by: Stefano Sollima
Starring: Michael B. Jordan, Jodie Turner-Smith, Jamie Bell, Guy Pearce, Lauren London, Jacob Scipio, Todd Lasance, and more
Grade: One and a half stars (out of four)
Jenniffer Wardell is an award-winning movie critic and member of the Denver Film Critics Society. Find her on Twitter at @wardellwriter or drop her a line at email@example.com.