The hope with “Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse” for Paramount Pictures is that it can launch a new franchise on the back of Sexiest Man Alive Michael B. Jordan. And the good news is that Jordan delivers as John Clark, even if the movie doesn’t.
Initial reviews from critics on “Without Remorse” were relatively lukewarm, though the gripes rest primarily with director Stefano Sollima’s boiler-plate, Cold War action fare, which reviewers labeled as “conventional,” “dull” and “grim.”
Many of the critics agree that Jordan brings an added layer of depth to the role, one that recalls his best work in films like “Creed” and “Black Panther,” though less of an everyman type in the vein of Willem Dafoe and Liev Schrieber as previous iterations of Tom Clancy’s spy character.
“For its many flaws, if there’s a reason to travel down the predictable byways of ‘Without Remorse,’ it’s Michael B. Jordan’s interpretation of a hyper-competent soldier who is also a broken man, fueled by the pain of loss while using that tragedy as the motor that drives him,” TheWrap’s Alonso Duralde wrote in his review. “Protagonists of earlier action films might have shied away from this level of intense emotion out of some misguided notion that it would seem too sensitive — or perhaps beyond the thespian ability of other he-man movie stars — but Jordan brings a much needed dose of humanity to a story that’s otherwise thuddingly familiar.”
While there’s still potential for a ClancyVerse franchise so long as Jordan is attached, some critics were just wishing for a film crossover between Jordan’s John Clark and John Krasinski’s Jack Ryan.
See some other critic reactions below:
The AV Club: Occasionally, “Without Remorse” methodically sets up an action sequence that matches Jordan’s ferocity, as when the agent, imprisoned for a major crime, draws the riot squad into his cell for a brawl. Much of the movie, though, takes its cues from that dull opening sequence, a grim performance of visceral action played out in low-contrast shadows.
Collider: The film basically exists for Jordan to do cool tactical special forces stuff, and if that’s all you want from this movie, you’ll likely be satisfied. But for those who love Jordan’s range, “Without Remorse” never offers much of an acting challenge.
Entertainment Weekly: As a vast Clancy-ish conspiracy that manages to be both vague and almost comically explicit unfolds, things go boom with numbing regularity and various faceless combatants die; best-laid plans go awry. Vengeance is wrought without remorse and even less sense. The only sure thing, judging by the promise of a post-credits scene, is a sequel.
Indiewire: If “Without Remorse” is able to become the start of something bigger, it will do so because of the tense chemistry it rekindles between Jordan and co-star Jamie Bell (who first collaborated on 2015’s misbegotten “Fantastic Four”; they were smart enough to rescue what they could from the wreckage). On his own, Jordan — who also produced the film, and shows off the kind of lat muscles that suggest he might’ve carried the whole project on his back — isn’t a particularly compelling Clark.
Looper: Michael B. Jordan is just too much of a conventional action star to capture the imagination in the same way. His movie star charisma is a blessing and a curse. It makes this film vastly more watchable than it might’ve been, but it also robs the movie of the secret ingredient that made earlier Tom Clancy adaptations so beloved — how they effectively delivered the dad movie fantasy of the everyman who saves the day. Without that, all that’s left is a generic action romp that barely leaves an impression once its set pieces end.
Screen Crush: The movie around Jordan is just like Kelly himself: Cold, detached, and brutal. Director Stefano Sollima previously worked with Sheridan on the “Sicario” sequel “Day of the Soldado.” That film seemed to iron out all of the original’s quirks and ambiguity in exchange for an efficient but superficial cop movie. “Without Remorse” gives a similar sheen of bland professionalism to Tom Clancy’s universe. What little remains of the moral swamp Jack Ryan waded through in films like “Clear and Present Danger” only exists now to be dispatched by John Kelly with as little fuss as possible. The film is straightforward to fault.