The journey of turning Tom Clancy’s WITHOUT REMORSE into a film was a long one. Originally, it was supposed to hit the big screen way back in holidays season of 1995. John McTiernan as attached to direct and Keanu Reeves, hot of the success of SPEED, was offered the lead role. Reeves was reportedly offered a salary of $7-10mil, pretty high for the time but he didn’t want to do back-to-back action pictures and declined the offer. Then Gary Senise, still in high demand because of his role in FORREST GUMP was attached to star as the lead and Lawrence Fishburne also signed on to be the second lead. But the production was shut down because Savoy Pictures, the studio that was producing the film, went bankrupt. In the 2000s, the late director John Singleton tried to revive the project, he was looking to cast Joaquin Phoenix as the lead, but the project never came to fruition. In the 2010s, Christopher McQuarrie was assigned to write and direct with Tom Hardy being eyed as the lead. But again, the project just couldn’t get off the ground.
Now almost 30 years later, Clancy’s second action hero (behind Jack Ryan) is finally getting his own film.
A group of Navy SEALS is Syria trying to rescue an American prisoner, one of the SEALS named John Kelly (Michael B. Jordan) feels there’s something fishy going on. He thinks that CIA operative John Ritter (Jamie Bell) is hiding something from his team. The only person that’s on his side is SEAL’s leader Karen Greer (Jodie Turner-Smith). Despite his protests, the team did rescue the prisoner, but it turned out the bad guys weren’t Syrians but a bunch of Russians. Kelly wanted to know what’s really going on, but Ritter basically told him it’s out of his pay grade. A few months after the rescue mission, members of Kelly’s SEAL team were assassinated. When the assassins came to kill Kelly, he was able fend them off but not before his pregnant wife was killed during the attack at his home. Filled rage and vengeance, Kelly is on a mission to find who’s behind the attack that killed his unborn child and wife.
Loosely based on Tom Clancy’s early 90s novel, the movie has little resemblance to the novel. The only similarity was that Kelly’s wife and unborn child were killed in the beginning of the story and that’s it. The screenplay is credited to Taylor Sheridan and Will Staples. By stripping away all of Clancy’s source material, there’s not much that we haven’t seen before in this kind of story. Sheridan even repeats himself here by writing a plot that’s similar to the last SICARIO film. The most sinful thing the writers commit on this script was that they didn’t include a central villain. A good action film needs a good antagonist and here we don’t really find out about the villain until the last 10 minutes of the film. And I’m pretty sure most audiences can figure out who’s really behind the attack on Kelly’s SEAL team. I don’t mind that the writers decided to come up with their own version of this story, but I thought Clancy’s novel could be adapted into a great action thriller. There’s so much material in the novel that’s still relevance in today’s world.
Director Stefano Sollima, who directed the underwhelmed SICARIO sequel, didn’t really elevate the not-so-exiting script. His style of direction is very mundane and by the number. A story like this need someone that can inject energy into the picture. But Sollima either don’t have that kind of talent or didn’t really care to make this into an exciting action thriller. Even the big action scene was lacking creativity and excitement.
Jordan really poured his heart and soul into this role and he’s great as John Kelly. Unfortunately, his co-stars were miscast. I didn’t believe that a young-looking Jamie Bell is a seasoned CIA operative and Turner-Smith just didn’t look tough enough to be a SEAL leader. I’m glad that her character is not a romantic lead or damsel in distress, and she can take care of herself. Guy Pearce has pretty much played that same sleazy character for the last 10 years or so and again his role as the sleazy politician in this film is no different.
Clancy’s Without Remorse is one of my favorite novels and I’ve been waiting to see film version for a long time. Despite some good talents involved in this film version, it’s an underwhelming and disappointing adaptation. If the proposed sequel Rainbow Six do happen, I hope they’ll hire a better team of writers and director.
So have you seen WITHOUT REMORSE? Well, what did you think?