After completing The Hunt for Red October in 1983, Tom Clancy didn’t submit it to a big New York publishing house. He sent it to Naval Institute Press, which until then had only published textbooks for Sea Service professionals. Yet the technical accuracy of his debut novel was so high they made an exception, and Tom Clancy became a household name, a bestselling author, and a brand.
The unfortunately named Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse is not, in fact, about the late author or his lack of regrets for any possible wrongdoings. Since the novel on which this movie is based came out almost 30 years ago, putting his name in the title is to establish that this falls under his brand, which still sells books, movies, and video games.
Michael B. Jordan plays John Kelly, a Navy SEAL so tough even the other SEALs have to say he’s the biggest and baddest of them all. Three months after returning home from a near disastrous mission, some of those teammates are killed (one man in front of his young daughter). Soon the assassins come for Kelly, who fends them off, but not before they murder his wife and unborn baby.
Once his body has healed, Kelly is ready to take his revenge. Without remorse, of course. His former CO, Karen Greer (Jodie Turner-Smith), slips him some information, and soon Kelly finds himself in a tangled web of espionage involving the CIA and Russia, rubbing shoulders with slimy CIA men Robert Ritter (Jamie Bell) and the sauve Secretary Clay (Guy Pearce).
A man with nothing to lose, Kelly sets a car on fire and jumps inside to interrogate the man trapped inside. He gets himself put in a prison filled with Russian gangsters and fights his way out. When his plane goes down, Kelly nearly drowns himself retrieving the equipment needed to complete the mission.
Yet it all moves along so smoothly on familiar ground that one hardly notices the bumps. Some of the action sequences are more inventive than others, and if you’ve seen any of the advertising, you already know which ones. Long gone is the realism and accuracy of Clancy’s original works. Even those with a rudimentary knowledge of the military, weapons, or spycraft will find plenty of glaring errors. What keeps us invested is Jordan’s intensity in the title role. Kelly might not be a superhero, but his character hardly exists in our reality no matter how gritty and grounded it might be portrayed.
The other reason we watch is out of a desire for justice. Solomon wrote, “When justice is done, it is a joy to the righteous but a terror to evildoers.” No matter how unrealistic the story, we always find a certain satisfaction in seeing the bad guys getting their due. While Without Remorse might offend our sense of reason, for a couple hours we can imagine ourselves in a world where the righteous always get the upper hand. (Amazon Prime)