Do you remember being in high school and going to the movies with a big group of friends? Do you remember how difficult it was to decide on one movie that everyone was willing to sit through? It was near-impossible to pick something that everyone could stomach. Thankfully, there always seemed to be a generic action movie playing that promised enough excitement and recognizable faces to appease even the person who was most upset that they didn’t get to see the movie they really wanted. That generic action movie may not have been great and may not have been particularly memorable, but at least you had something flashy to look at while you stuffed your face full of popcorn. That kind of decision-making is how I ended up seeing the instantly forgettable Battle: Los Angeles (2011) when I was in ninth grade. It’s also the perfect way to describe Amazon’s newest release, Without Remorse (2021).
Based on Tom Clancy’s novel of the same name, Without Remorse follows John Kelly, a U.S. Navy SEAL who embarks on a journey of revenge after his wife, unborn child, and fellow unit members are murdered by Russian hitmen.
Even before watching I knew that getting to enjoy this movie was going to be an uphill battle for me. As my review for Good Morning, Vietnam (1987) – check out that review, here – will tell you, I have a low tolerance for movies about the military. I have an even lower tolerance for action movies that are just that – pure action – and aren’t a hybrid of fantasy or comedy. So, going in I had a sneaky feeling that the dramatic and gun-filled Without Remorse was not going to be the movie for me. My spirits raised a little when I discovered the movie had a relatively short runtime of an hour and 49 minutes but you guys, even that couldn’t save this snoozefest of a movie. I use the term “snoozefest” a lot, but I was watching this movie with my mom and she literally yawned during what was supposed to be an epic shootout. The main problem with Without Remorse is that it’s just so incredibly bland. It’s not even that it’s necessarily bad, there’s just nothing of interest going on. I don’t remember a single plot point form this movie and I watched it only last night. Even the action scenes, which should be the real stars in a movie like this, are pretty forgettable. What’s worse, the movie shoots itself in the foot by neglecting its human characters in favour of scenes packed with action and the result is a movie that not only has boring action sequences, but boring characters as well.
I remember thinking to myself that even if Without Remorse was thoroughly boring – which it turned out to be – at least it was filled with a charismatic cast of actors who could be relied on to offer some much-needed personality to an otherwise drab movie. Oh boy, was I wrong. The characters are one-dimensional which is a wasted opportunity because I’ve seen this cast be compelling, fun, and interesting in so many other things. By the way, I strongly encourage everyone to watch Cam Gigandet in the camp-tastic Burlesque (2010). Or Guy Pearce in The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994). Everyone is so underdeveloped and underwritten, either being killed off in the first 10 minutes or hardly making an appearance in the movie, that it makes it impossible to care about any of the characters. Which makes caring about anything that happens in Without Remorse equally impossible. Even Michael B. Jordan, who stars as John Kelly and is undoubtedly the best part of this movie, is dreadfully underutilized. The actor’s natural talent and charm shine through and he’s more than capable as a lead actor (he’s also pretty shirtless throughout, just a heads up), but even his decent performance isn’t worth the energy it takes to watch Without Remorse. If all the characters had been given more material to work with I could have seen this as a more bearable action-thriller but it’s just bare-bones and lazy.
A movie about a remorseless protagonist on a passionate revenge-fueled mission is one whose potential is limitless. The fact that Without Remorse is so terribly slow, stale, and lacking any impact is a colossal disappointment. I was already pretty “meh” about this movie but the fact that it lacks any style or substance made it a challenge for me to keep watching. If you watch this movie and your attention fades in and out like mine did, you’ll be kind of lost because the writing isn’t dynamic and does nothing to keep you invested. As well, the action isn’t that exciting and all the scenes look almost identical so a majority of the movie looks and feels like one long unending scene. Just go ahead and look at your phone and casually glance up at the screen when you hear an explosion. I promise you won’t miss anything worthwhile.
For a movie that’s been in development Hell for decades, I’m sure a lot of fans of Clancy’s original novel were hoping that Hollywood had finally cracked the code on how to bring John Kelly to the big screen. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot about Without Remorse to get anyone, fans or otherwise, excited about this franchise that is surely dead on arrival. You know, I actually do feel a little remorse. I feel remorseful about having to sit through this movie.
Have you seen Without Remorse? What did you think?
Let me know in the comments or on social media!