Seeking justice for the murder of his pregnant wife, an elite Navy SEAL (Michael B. Jordan) uncovers a covert plot that threatens to engulf the United States and Russia in an all-out war.
Straightforward action movies have to contend with the reality that the genre is more or less overflowing with sub-par entries of late. For every 'John Wick' or 'Fast and Furious', there's about a hundred more straight-to-VOD entries with dubious titles, poorly thought-out plots, cheap production values, and somehow, Bruce Willis in the middle of it all for maybe ten minutes of screentime.
Although it lacks Bruce Willis and it's not decidedly cheap-looking, 'Without Remorse' fits the bill of a bland, straight-to-VOD actioner. It's got a plot that feels like it's been lifted straight from the '80s - and it has. 'Without Remorse' is one of Tom Clancy's most well-known novels and was originally supposed to have been adapted into a movie with Keanu Reeves attached at one point. This time around, it's Michael B. Jordan and what with the original's plot about Vietnamese POWs no longer making any sense, you've got the whole thing updated to Syria and Russia with a lot of people dressed up in armour vests and gloves looking stern-faced as they jump through windows and so forth.
If the main objective of an action movie is to be exciting and entertaining, 'Without Remorse' fails at this. Badly. In fact, it fails it at every available opportunity. Stefano Sollima's direction feels flat and unoriginal, and the performances from all concerned as well as the wooden dialogue by Taylor Sheridan and Will Staples never makes an impact. Everyone, with the exception of Michael B. Jordan it must be said, are acting like they're waiting until the end of the shoot for the cheque to clear. On top of that, the plot and the story is that dull and self-serious that there's absolutely no vibrancy in any of it.
Going back to the likes of 'First Blood' or even further back to 'Death Wish', vigilante movies of this ilk worked because there were crudely effective and they came with a convincing backdrop. 'First Blood', it had Vietnam War veterans who had been chewed up and spat out by the very society they thought they were protecting. 'Death Wish', you had New York's crumbling buildings closing in on Charles Bronson and the anguish he felt was in every moment. Here, however, it tries to reach out at something but it's all so vague and ill-defined that it's impossible to connect with any of it.
The result is a movie that's not good enough for its lead and far below expectation for its director and writer.
'Without Remorse' is available to stream on Amazon Prime Video from April 30th.