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A-Ron’s New Movie Reviews: “Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse” (2021)

Writer Taylor Sheridan and director Stefano Sollima have reunited after 2018’s “Sicario: Day Of The Soldado” (aka: “Sicario 2”). The two take on Tom Clancy’s novel “No Remorse”. Set during the Vietnam War, it serves as an origin story of John Clark, one of the recurring characters in the Jack Ryan universe. The novel “Without Remorse” introduces Clark as former Navy Seal, John Kelly and explains how he changed his name. Clancy started working on “Without Remorse” in 1971. He later went back to the previously abandoned story in 1992, spending about four months on the novel and publishing it in 1993.

Originally produced and set for a theatrical release by Paramount Pictures (the home of all 5 Tom Clancy “Jack Ryan” films). “Without Remorse” was acquired by Amazon Studios amid the COVID-19 pandemic and has been released digitally on Prime Video on April 30th. 

It all started when Savoy Pictures first bought the film rights to “Without Remorse”, soon after the novel was released for $2.5 million. At one point, Keanu Reeves was offered the role as John Clark for a $7 million payday, but declined. Although the film failed to meet its expected December 1995 release date, it was fast tracked after John Milius (“Conan The Barbarian”, “Red Dawn” and screenwriter of “Apocalypse Now”) joined the production with the intent to write and direct the film, working in close consultation with the original book’s author Tom Clancy. 

Once Milius dropped out, Laurence Fishburne and Gary Sinise were attached to star in the adaptation. However, production was shut down for script and financial problems with the production company. The film went under development hell for years until Christopher McQuarrie (“Mission Impossible Rogue Nation” and “Mission Impossible Fallout”) signed on with Paramount Pictures to direct the adaptation in 2012. Tom Hardy was approached by Paramount to play Clark, and Kevin Costner was slated to reprise his role as mentor William Harper from another Clancy-based film “Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit” (2014), but this version was also scrapped. 

In 2018, Michael B. Jordan was announced to be playing John Clark, arguably Clancy’s second most popular protagonist outside of Jack Ryan. The character of John Clark was previously brought to life by Willem Dafoe in “Clear and Present Danger” opposite Harrison Ford as Jack Ryan. There was also Liev Schreiber as a younger John Clark, alongside Ben Affleck as Jack Ryan in “The Sum of All Fears”. Michael B. Jordan is supposedly locked in for a two-part film series, which will be composed of “Without Remorse” and Clancy’s extremely popular series “Rainbow Six”. In December of 2018, is when Stefano Sollima and Taylor Sheridan were hired to direct and write “Without Remorse”.

After presenting us with two successful seasons of the “Jack Ryan” series. Amazon is staying in the Tom Clancy business by giving us “Without Remorse”. A Tom Clancy movie that doesn’t feel very Tom Clancy and related in name only. It’s a lower key action thriller that’s similar to “Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit” (which was not based on a Clancy novel). They both have that modest budget and mid level action for a would be franchise starters.

“Without Remorse” is a great kick start to another potential franchise for Michael B. Jordan (other than “Creed”). While “Without Remorse” isn’t your typical Tom Clancy, it is meant to be an origin story and if a sequel is in the works hopefully they’ll inject more of that Tom Clancy aesthetic into it. Clark is far from the Jack Ryan character and is more of a bad mama-jama. A Navy Seasl whose team takes on a murky mission involving Russian targets. 

Being fed some shaky intel by suspicious CIA agent Ritter (Jamie Bell), Clark is none too happy about being misled and potentially starting an all-out war with Russia. Clark and his men soon find themselves targeted by assassins. But when they come after Clark in his own home, he survives multiple gunshot wounds. However, his pregnant wife (Lauren London) doesn’t make it after being gunned down. Clearly these guys have never seen any revenge movie ever. Big mistake boys!

Director Stefano Solima (“Gomorrah”) did a great job with “Sicario: Day of the Soldado” and he does the same here in “Without Remorse”. The action is medium level despite Michael B. Jordan’s physicality. It’s not hard hitting or gritty like the action in “Sicario: Day Of Soldado”. The gunfights are entertaining, well choreographed and give your home theater a workout, especially in the films second hour. There is one scene where Michael B. Jordan, sets a car on fire and then climbs into it to question one of the baddies that strains credibility and is stretching it just a bit too much into the absurd. 

There’s a tremendously staged and killer close quarters fight of Jordan against prison guards, that feels like a scene out of “The Raid”. I just wish there was more of that in the movie. It’s a perfect sequence that utilizes Jordan’s physicality and intensity that makes you wish a more experienced creative team (here’s looking at you “John Wick”), in terms of action movies had been involved. 

If it wasn’t evident already Michael B. Jordan (who also produces the movie) is a top-notch movie star and Solima’s effective action scenes showcase Jordan’s skills as an action star. When he isn’t killing baddies and Solima’s film goes on some downtime. Jordan keeps us believing the rage and despair within him. He gives that charismatic, old school, pissed off action hero approach that makes you want “Without Remorse”, to become the start of a “Jason Bourne” style franchise for Jordan. 

I found the script to be the most disappointing, especially coming from such a talented writer like Taylor Sheridan who had a hand in the script. The “Without Remorse” script just doesn’t feel up to Sheridan’s standards. I mean this is they guy who is behind both “Sicario” films, “Hell Or High Water”, “Wind River” and the current Kevin Costner Paramount Network series “Yellowstone”. 

Sheridan tries to cook up a conspiracy subplot that doesn’t bring much tension. Something pretty unusual for Sheridan, whose scripts usually traffic in that stuff to tremendous effect. Instead he chooses to make a straight ahead revenge movie and as I mentioned earlier that “Without Remorse”, probably doesn’t even need to be affiliated with the Tom Clancy universe at all.

As Jordan’s co-star, Jodie Turner-Smith of “Queen and Slim is a great actress, but she is miscast as a Navy Seal. Although her character is meant to recur, since she is playing the daughter of James Greer, the character played by James Earl Jones in the Jack Ryan films and Wendell Pierce who currently plays him on the Amazon series “Jack Ryan”.

If you’re a fan of Tom Clancy and millions of people are (which includes myself). I personally love Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan character, the Jack Ryan films and the Amazon series. John Clark aka John Kelly, is known as the “dark side” to Clancy’s stories and I’ll need to see more of John Clark in order for me to embrace the character like I have with Jack Ryan. As of right now I’m completely up for more and I do hope that Michael B. Jordan gets another chance to reprise this character. 

I also hope they can pump a bigger budget into the sequel and add more of what they teased in the fight scenes. Other than “Creed”, Michael B. Jordan should get another star vehicle that he deserves. If you’re a fan of Michael B. Jordan and want to see what he can do as the toughest of Clancy’s badasses. Or even if you feel like watching an entertaining action film that’ll give your home theater a nice workout, then it’s worth tuning into Amazon Prime to catch this one. NOTICE: Be sure to stick around for the mid credits scene!

GRADE: ★★★☆☆ (3 out of 5)

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About Aron Medeiros

Aron Medeiros
Aron Medeiros is the movie critic for Maui Watch. He lives on the beautiful island of Maui and is also a member of the elite Hawaii Film Critics Society and an active cast member of the NerdWatch pod cast. He is a 2003 graduate from King Kekaulike High School. His favorite film of all time is “Back To The Future”. He has worked at Consolidated Kaahumanu Theaters for nearly 13 years as a Sales Associate and making his way up to Assistant Manager. He has loved movies since he was a young boy, where his Grandfather started his love for the movies.

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