Without Remorse. Without Any Relation To The Source Material, more like.
When you have one of Tom Clancy’s best books in the Jack Ryan universe at your fingertips, you would think that at least a tiny shred of the story, the characters, the settings, or the motivation might make it into a movie adaption. As it is, there are precisely zero recognizable components in this movie adaption, with the exception of the names of some of the characters. Even they are not recognizable from their novel counterparts.
It’s perfectly competent as a middle-rate military and espionage thriller. Made with a sort of standard approach of the unambitious. On its own, it would be a perfectly acceptable guy-movie. An easy, if an undemanding way to pass a couple of hours and a few beers after the kids have gone to bed. A few hours after watching it, it would have completely gone from your mind.
However as an “adaption”, and I use that word very loosely, of the Tom Clancy novel, Without Remorse is so far removed as to not even be on nodding terms with the original work. It is as if somebody had basically adapted Peter Benchley’s Jaws, but featured just the character of Brody, made him a garage mechanic instead of Police Chief, and completely left out the shark.
Or adapted Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With The Wind but instead relocated Rhett and Scarlett to Northern England of the 1960s and had them never meet. It really is that far off. So what went wrong? Clearly, somebody thought they were a better storyteller than Tom Clancy, and somebody was wrong. As a result, it is a completely pointless waste of time.
In the book version of Without Remorse, retired Navy SEAL John Kelly has lost his pregnant wife in a car accident. He encounters Pamela Madden, a runaway who became a drug mule and prostitute. She has escaped from her violent dealer and pimp.
Kelly helps rehabilitate her from her addiction and in the process starts to put his own life back together, finally healing his grief.
When Kelly and Pam go to Baltimore for follow-up treatment they pass through a neighborhood where her ex-pimp and his contacts work. One of them recognizes Pam and after a car chase, Kelly is gravely wounded by a shotgun blast and left for dead. Pam is recaptured, tortured, gang-raped, killed with her body dumped.
A recovered John Kelly goes on a revenge mission through the Baltimore underworld that eventually leads him from street-level pimps and dealers up through the organized crime of the city, causing them to panic and turn on each other.
Meanwhile, Kelly is also being courted by the CIA as a recruit for a highly dangerous, highly secret mission and must disguise his revenge-driven activities from both his potential employers and the police who are becoming concerned at the body count. Jonh Kelly ends up adopting the name of John Clarke and it is this character we eventually meet at a much later stage in his career in the Jack Ryan books. In the movies, he was played by either Willen Dafoe or Liev Schrieber.
A tight, straightforward story begging to be adapted, right? Wrong!
Hollywood idiocy knows no bounds, as we frequently discuss here at Last Movie Outpost. As a result, a story is somehow churned up and then practically shat out seemingly as an excuse to leverage the title and that is all.
Here Kelly is a current Navy SEAL and after a mission backed up by CIA intel in Aleppo, Syria goes slightly off the rails, the team finds themselves being killed one-by-one on US soil. The attempt to kill Kelly results in his pregnant wife being murdered. The dead wife is about all this has in common with the novel.
From Here On In, Things Get A Lot Different
His SEAL Team Commanding officer gives him a tip-off as to who could be responsible. It’s the Russians, who had some of their operatives killed in the operation in Aleppo. When Kelly murders the GRU Rezident in Washington for ordering the attacks that killed his colleagues, his wife, and his unborn daughter he is arrested and imprisoned in a jail full of the Russian mob. Somebody wants him silenced for good.
He is then released from prison to assist the CIA with a mission as a result of the fall-out of the previous operation. He covertly travels to Murmansk with his ex-unit and under his previous commander. Here they uncover a conspiracy that goes high, on both sides of the former Iron Curtain.
There is lots of gunplay, a car chase, and explosions, plus an effective urban sniper scene. However, as previously discussed, at no point is any of this on even nodding terms with the original story.
As a result, it’s mostly entirely redundant before the opening titles have even finished, and the whole thing is without purpose.
You will see the eventual bad guy coming from a million miles away, almost from their first moment on the screen. Everyone is largely unlikable. You don’t ever really root for the character of Kelly or his team. Part of the problem is Michael B. Jordan.
Jordan is highly thought of as an actor. However, it is slowly becoming clear that he is exactly the same in every movie. His John Kelly is completely the same as Adonis Creed or Eric Killmonger. It’s all glowering, through pursed lips, and occasionally wailing and punching something inanimate in grief or rage… and very little else.
It is pointing to a very limited range.
In-Service Of Another Plot
Alongside him are a team of absolute no-marks who I cannot remember a single thing about. Some make it, some don’t. Jamie Bell turns up in the role of Ritter, who will appear again in Clear And Present Danger. Here he is the standard CIA weasel who may, or may not, have the information we think we already know.
The most jarring supporting character is his SEAL Team Commander. Why? Well, a quick check on the interwebz tells me that:
“While the military formally opened SEAL billets — and all other previously closed jobs — to women in 2016, no woman has yet made it to the infamous 24-week Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) training to date.”
So it is something of a puzzle to see his Commanding Officer in the SEAL Team as Jodie Turner-Smith. A beautiful woman and an engaging actress, here she is given nothing to do but appear overly butch to try and make her appear believable and to attempt to out-glower Jordan. As a result the scenes between these two frequently dissolve into a glower-off.
Even worse, in a vague attempt to hit Clancy fans square in the ‘member berries they make her character Karen Greer, and include a single throwaway reference to her Uncle, Jim Greer, one-time Admiral and Jack Ryan’s boss at the CIA.
The whole thing struggles to propel itself forward at times through a plot that bears no relation to the original story at all, with characters that are unrecognizable, until a resolution appears completely out of nowhere. It arrives as if somebody had ordered them to wrap the whole production up with half of the third-act remaining. It leaves a completely unsatisfying feeling.
Finally, an unearned and horribly staged post-credits scene appears like an unwanted fart in an elevator, and name drops Rainbox Six, a future John Clarke adventure, so clumsily you can almost hear it go “Clang!” as it hits the floor.
Heaven forbid, I think Amazon may have their eyes on a combined universe here. God help us.
Basically, I have watched Without Remorse so that you don’t have to. It is not Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse even if you really want it to be.
It is streaming now on Amazon Prime if you fail to heed my warning.