Dog’s Movie House: “Without Remorse” Elevated By Michael B. Jordan’s Performance!

“Without Remorse” tells the tale of John Kelly (Jordan) a member of a Navy SEAL team who finds himself in the middle of a vast government conspiracy when a mission in the Middle East goes sideways. Instead of targeting terrorists, they end up fighting members of the Russian military, and action that has disastrous consequences when a Russian hit squad kills several members of the team. Kelly survives but loses his wife and unborn child. With the CIA (led by Jamie Bell’s creepy Robert Ritter) ready to close the case in the name of national security, Kelly is force to go rogue with only a few allies to help him. Those include his commanding officer Karen Greer (Jodie Turner-Smith) and the Secretary of State Clay (Guy Pearce). Together they have to fight enemies on both sides in order to prevent World War Three.

The script (by one of my favorite screenwriters, Taylor Sheridan) has some good beats, but it can’t quite overcome the cliches inherent in a lot of action movies. I mean, the bad guys killed Kelly’s wife and unborn child: why don’t I feel more? A lot of the characters are also fairly one-note and you never really get to know the members of the team, so the casualties don’t have the emotional impact they should given the terrible events that happen to them.

On the plus side, “Without Remorse” benefits from some muscular direction by “Sicario: Day Of The Soledad’s” Stefano Sollima. While the action sequences aren’t spectacular but they are effective and the pace is swift enough to make you forget how silly some of the story is. (The Russian police arrive at a bombing of a building with a single police car? Seriously?) It also helps that both Jordan and Turner-Smith have the action chops to portray legitimate bad-asses.

Speaking of Jordan, he really carries the movie from a dramatic standpoint. You may not believe all of the bull excrement going on around you, but he sells every single moment of Kelly’s grief and rage. It’s like he belongs in another film at times. It also helps that he’s ripped in a way that makes me doubt my own not inconsiderable masculinity. Seriously, who has a twelve pack of abs? Turner-Smith is also very good here, but her role, like many of the other characters is somewhat underwritten, but she has good chemistry with Jordan. Bell does a good turn as the slimy Ritter and Pearce is reliable as ever as Secretary Clay, an ally with motives of his own.

The biggest change from the book has nothing to do with casting Jordan, who is black, as a character who was written as a white Vietnam vet. No, it’s the fact that they changed just about everything from the book’s central plot. Kelly takes on drug dealers in an effort to help a recent romantic interest, gets cocky and also gets the girl killed and nearly gets killed himself. After recovering, the book’s Kelly goes all Charles Bronson, killing the gang in increasingly nasty ways, all while keeping his war secret from his superiors and even going on a side mission for the government to rescue a POW from Vietnam. He’s eventually successful in both missions but his criminal activities necessitate his faking his death to work for the CIA as John Clark. The movie ditches all of this for a fairly generic plot which hurts the film overall. There is a set up for the popular Rainbow Six, though, so that’s pretty cool. Perhaps the filmmakers will be a little more faithful to the source material in succeeding films. I know I want to see Jordan reprise the role of John Kelly in a better film.

As it stands, “Without Remorse” is one of those agreeable time-wasters that promises more than it delivers but if a franchise is in the offing, you could have worse starts. 3 Out Of 5 On Kendog’s Barkometer! So Sayeth The Kendog!

“Without Remorse” is currently streaming on Amazon Prime.

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