He went toe to toe with some serious boxers under the tutelage, in more ways than one, of Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky Balboa. He survived to tell the tale of Josh Trank’s Fantastic Four (or Fant4stic as us fans lovingly call it) and came out with his dignity intact. He has played real-life activists and heroes, done his rom-com, played an aspirational football player and, most importantly/controversially, played the most compelling villain/anti-hero in the MCU. Yep, you heard us. Forget your Loki’s, Thanos’s, Hela’s or Mandarin’s, Erik Killmonger is Marvel’s greatest villain. What do all those characters aforementioned have in common? They are all played by the colossus that is Michael B. Jordan, who is back in arguably his riskiest film to date.
It’s not a foreign idea to bring Tom Clancy’s dense, thrilling, politically-charged works to the big screen but it has been a while since someone got it right. The Hunt for Red October, with Alec Baldwin as Jack Ryan, was a huge hit in 1991 but was lambasted by the author, followed by the Harrison Ford-starrers Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger, before Ben Affleck and Chris Pine had a go in more recent years. Some have been good, others forgettable, none as thrilling perhaps as the aptly-named Jack Ryan on Amazon Prime with John Krasinski in the title role. Now, Jordan and director Stefano Sollima (Sicario 2: Soldado) have shifted focus to another Clancy favourite in John Clark with Without Remorse, the first of a planned duo of films that will conclude with a long-awaited adaptation of Rainbow Six.
Based on the 1993 novel of the same name but hugely updated thanks to the smart, sophisticated scribings of Taylor Sheridan (Hell Or High Water, Wind River), Without Remorse certainly provides a muscular, pulsating thriller with the kind of bare-knuckle, hand-held action sequences pulled straight from The Bourne Identity or Casino Royale (and their follow-ups) that seem to be what audiences want from such films: bloody, sweat, tears and topsy-turvy, nausea-inducing camera angles.
If that’s what you like, you’re in good company, punctured by Jordan’s explosive, rage-fuelled yet compassionate turn in the lead that cements his position as one of the most exciting actors plying their trade right now. Add to the mix superb turns from Jodie Smith-Turner as Clark’s Commander Karen Green and Jamie Bell as a suitably smarmy colleague eager to please the “establishment” and it has all the ingredients for a rip-roaring opening salvo.
Sadly, it doesn’t quite find the right mixture to elevate above the usual ilk which, given the talent attached, it deserves enough be. Instead, it falls foul to the usual clichés and issues of a franchise starter, not least seeming unwilling to trust its forward-thinking filmmakers enough to break free more from its source. As if made by the same “committees” that stop many similar endeavours in its tracks before they even begin. If it had, this would have been an excellent firestarter, instead it’s just a good one.
Action, Thriller | USA, 2021 | 15 | Amazon Prime Video | 30th April 2021 | Dir.Stefano Sollima | Michael B. Jordan, Jodie Turner-Smith, Jamie Bell, Guy Pearce