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'Tom Clancy's Without Remorse' review: Standard-issue action movie

Michael B. Jordan stars in "Without Remorse."

Michael B. Jordan stars in "Without Remorse."  Credit: Amazon Studios/Paramount Pictures/Nadja Klier

PLOT A Navy SEAL uses his skills to find out who killed his family.

CAST Michael B. Jordan, Jamie Bell, Jodie Turner-Smith

RATED R (strong violence)

LENGTH 1:49

WHERE Starts streaming Friday on Amazon Prime Video

BOTTOM LINE A standard-issue action movie that might have fared better on the big screen.

Michael B. Jordan turns a supporting role into a lead in "Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse." Jordan plays Navy SEAL John Clark, until now a second banana to Clancy’s better-known protagonist Jack Ryan. A-listers such as Harrison Ford and Ben Affleck have played Ryan in five movies, while Clark has been played only twice, by Willem Dafoe and Liev Schreiber. "Without Remorse," based on Clancy’s 1993 novel, puts Jordan front and center in — you guessed it — an origin story.

But first, the origin story of "Without Remorse." Initially a Paramount Pictures title, it was intended for theaters but got held up by the pandemic. Release dates came and went; Paramount finally made a deal with Amazon to debut the movie on Prime Video. That’s surely disappointing for director Stefano Sollima ("Sicario: Day of the Soldado"), who shot "Without Remorse" using a large-format digital camera and clearly poured a lot of energy into the action sequences. That said, it still feels like a made-for-television movie, a Friday night time passer whose characters, dialogue and plot all feel purely stock.

"Without Remorse" presents its hero — born John Kelly, as he's called in the film — as a brooding and angry figure. Following a botched mission in Syria, Kelly is marked for death by a shadowy cabal, but they miss him and instead kill his loved ones. In short order, Kelly wreaks his revenge, goes to prison, gets sprung by Secretary Clay (Guy Pearce) and embarks on yet another mission, this one in Russia, where the real bad guys are. Joining Kelly are his comrade-in-arms Karen Greer (Jodie Turner-Smith) and a weaselly CIA operative, Ritter (Jamie Bell).

From the real-life shooting victim Oscar Grant III in "Fruitvale Station" to the furious villain Killmonger in "Black Panther," Jordan has proved he can do anything. "Without Remorse" revels in its star, allowing him to play the grieving widower, the bleeding martyr and the one-man army (Kelly's fight with a riot squad in a cramped prison cell is a highlight of the film). Still, this character has little depth. Clancy envisioned him as a veteran of the Vietnam War, the Iran Hostage Crisis and other murky episodes; screenwriters Taylor Sheridan and Will Staples have refashioned Kelly into the victim of a cardboard cutout Cold War conspiracy.

A closing credits scene sets up a potential franchise. We’ll see about that. In the meantime, manage your expectations, and you won't have too many regrets about "Without Remorse."

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