Covid delayed the release of shoot-’em-up Without Remorse by more than six months. (Originally meant to reach cinemas last autumn, it is now coming out via Amazon.) No pandemic can match Hollywood for stalling, though, whole sections of the movie business theoretically making the film — without actually doing so — since the publication of Tom Clancy’s source novel in 1993.
Finally the project emerges with only a vague resemblance to the book and Michael B Jordan as Navy SEAL John Kelly. Where the novel was rooted in Vietnam, the movie opens in Syria with a bloody firefight. Soon Kelly is back in the US, a future in private security beckoning, his wife pregnant. Indeed. In short order, he is vowing revenge on Russian assailants who leave him a widower. The trail leads to global conspiracy. He will, naturally, play by his own rules.
As a tale of payback, Without Remorse doesn’t ape the neon operatics of the successful John Wick franchise. Jordan is tamped down, the ambience terse, the violence delivered in kinetic bursts early on, lengthy set pieces later. If geopolitics have changed since 1993, so too has action cinema. Clancy published the novel the same year the film business tried to nab audiences from computer games with the cartoonish Super Mario Bros. Now, the movie slips quickly into the visual language of gaming, gun battles staged in ruined cityscapes.
Director Stefano Sollima — co-creator of Italian crime series ZeroZeroZero — makes you squint with the literal murk on screen but he pulls the strings efficiently. A sequel is already planned. (Expect it in 2050.)
On Amazon Prime from April 30