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‘Without Remorse‘ is a gripping action film

By Mason Kupiainen Tom Clancy’s work has become a staple across multiple mediums. We were first introduced to Clancy’s characters in novels, but they have since expanded to films, television, and video games. Arguably his most popular character, Jack Ryan, has been portrayed by five different actors with John Krasinski currently portraying the character in the Amazon series. Once again, Amazon brings another popular Clancy character, John Clark, to the screen. Without Remorse follows Clark after the murder of his pregnant wife. Seeking out those responsible, Clark discovers a dangerous plot involving America and Russia. 

Throwback action film

Image from Polygon
Not every action film can be the next The Raid 2, Mad Max: Fury Road, John Wick, or Predator, breaking down the barriers and being inventive within the genre. However, at the very least, action films must provide exciting and thrilling action sequences that leave you at the edge of your seat. Although not a perfect movie, Without Remorse is able to avoid this disease that plagues most action films. It feels like a throwback to classic 80s and 90s action films, with the film taking plenty of inspiration from Slyvester Stallone or Steven Seagal movies. It can feel a little too similar to other films at times and doesn’t provide anything new for the genre, but it can still be an entertaining ride. The fight choreography is thrilling to watch and looks realistic, which is, unfortunately, saying a lot when discussing modern action films. The best part about the action is that everything is filmed with wide, focused shots, allowing you to see everything being put on screen. Shaky-cam doesn’t plague the film as it does with countless others, most recently Mortal Kombat. Although the action never feels fresh or original—since it sticks with the traditional hand-to-hand combat and gun violence—it’s still able to keep all these scenes feeling exhilarating and entertaining. 

Subpar storytelling

Image from The Patriot Ledger
Aside from the action, everything else is bland and sometimes poor. The story is predictable and feels like any other political, espionage action film. With a script written by Taylor Sheridan and Will Staples—the first being the same writer behind incredible films like Sicario, Hell or High Water, and Wind River—it was upsetting to see the story be this weak. The film does move quickly and never lets you catch your breath, so by constantly keeping the action moving, you can almost forget about the subpar story. Every great action movie has a great action hero, but sadly Without Remorse lacks that as well. Clark is not well written or developed, but is still a character you can latch on to. Michael B. Jordan gives an acceptable performance, but it feels a bit bland at times. Clark doesn’t develop much throughout the film and stays the same rage-filled character he is from the beginning. His motivation is understandable and allows audiences to care for him, but beyond having his pregnant wife killed, the film doesn’t give you much else to grasp onto. Perhaps if they carry on with the sequels (which an end credit scene suggests that they are setting up a franchise), they can develop his character more. 

Thrilling filmmaking

Image from Collider
As mentioned before, the action sequences are handled well. A major issue in action films is the over-saturation of shaky-cam and quick-cut editing. The action is filmed with wonderful wide shots that allow you to see everything. Jordan also appeared to have done much, if not all, of the stunt work himself, which helps make the action more believable. There are no action sequences that stand out as some of the greatest put to film, but there are many memorable well-shot scenes. For example, in one scene, Clark fights off guards in a jail cell, which was well-choreographed and executed. The punches and kicks looked real and messy, as if it wasn’t practiced and was occurring naturally. There are also many long takes with few cuts. In a time when many action films are filled with countless quick cuts and poor editing, it was refreshing to see a film provide well-made action sequences. A downfall for the film was the lack of creativity. The film repeated certain styles of sequences to the point of feeling like the filmmakers didn’t have any other ideas. For example, there are multiple car accident scenes. One, in particular, follows Clark lighting a car on fire and interrogating a person inside while it burns. Another shows Clark interrogating someone in a vehicle while underwater, and yet another scene revolves around a sinking vehicle. The action also never changes and sticks with the traditional physical and gun action. If you go into the film aware that it’s a standard action film with some well-choreographed and directed action, you’ll most likely have a fun time.
Sources: Novel Suspects, USA Today, IMDB, IMDB Images: Polygon, The Patriot Ledger, Collider Featured Image: Collider