Despite some solid action sequences, Stefano Sollima’s Without Remorse is so disjointed between its political machinations and potential to launch a franchise that it forgets to deliver anything memorable.
Michael B. Jordan stars as Senior Cheif John Kelly, a member of a US Navy SEALs team sent rescue a CIA operative in Syria. The rescue succeeds, but the team reveals Russian military members as the captors. In retaliation for the raid, several team members are killed on American soil. Kelly dispatches a number of potential assassins, but his pregnant wife is killed while Kelly barely clings to life.
In response to the attacks, Lieutenant Commander Karen Greer (Jodie Turner-Smith) wants retribution, but the CIA and its officer Robert Ritter (Jamie Bell) consider the matter closed, as does the Secretary of Defense Thomas Clay (Guy Pearce). That’s not good enough for Greer as she hands confidential information over to Kelly so he can wage his own war and get to the bottom of things.
Explaining any more plot would spoil big parts of the film, and that’s the big problem. Film’s like this are marketed on the action sequences and political intrigue, but get bogged down in the backroom dealings and pointless detours. As soon as Kelly survives his attack, we know he is going to go on the warpath, but that warpath is fairly subdued. He does coldly murder, but it is more rare than you would think. The action is fairly sparse, limited to a few distinct setpieces.
Jordan does what he can with a role that asks him to be little more than a blunt instrument. He is one of the more charismatic leading men in Hollywood and this film asks him to do little more than grunt and punch. His physique is much more impressive than his dialogue. Similarly, if you hire dynamic performers like Jamie Bell, Jodie Turner-Smith and Guy Pearce, what is the point of wasting any chance they have to develop a character or stretch in any sort of way?
When the action scenes to begin, there is a real sense of environment and how the team will handle each situation. It feels as though the filmmakers had an idea for a few action scenes and attempted to build the narrative around it, but were hamstrung by Tom Clancy’s jingoistic sensibilities as well as their own plot-heavy ideas.
Without Remorse feels like a wasted opportunity to deliver something special with Jordan at the helm. Maybe the inevitable sequels will get a chance to redeem.