“Vengeance is in my heart, death in my hand, Blood and revenge are hammering in my head.” -William Shakespeare
Sometimes originality can be replaced by execution. By that I mean however unoriginal a story or its theme may be it can still be a damn good film if the final outcome is done well enough to justify its existence among all the other similarly themed stories. I don’t think I need to elaborate when I say the theme of revenge has been done to death. It’s films like the John Wick franchise and Man on Fire and now Without Remorse that keep alive the fact that for my money revenge flicks can be some of the best experiences at the theaters. I wouldn’t call any of those movies groundbreaking but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy the hell out of them. John Wick with the excellent action sequences captured with wide shots, Man on Fire with its sheer brutality. While Without Remorse may have its shortcomings it still manages to be highly entertaining and worthy of its potential sequels set up by its mid-credits scene.
I’ve seen better action sequences, I’ve seen more tension-filled sequences of espionage but in the end what makes this particular actioner work well enough is the casting of its likable and charismatic lead, Michael B. Jordan, and it’s overall structure brought to the screen by one of my personal favorite screenwriters, Taylor Sheridan (Sicario, Wind River, Yellowstone). With Sheridan’s strong writing guiding Jordan’s commanding performance, Without Remorse is a viable, wonderfully crafted, if not at times a bit familiar, outing of vengeance fueled badassery.
This is a movie that doesn’t feel the need to reinvent the wheel, perhaps just to keep the wheel rolling which is to say it makes every effort to keep the wheel from going flat. However familiar the tropes are, the fight scenes are still well done and thoroughly entertaining. The stunts are done mostly in camera with the actual cast front and center. It does what’s asked of a good action flick trying to garner whatever attention it can muster.
Stefano Sollima helms the film, a follow-up to his wonderful turn with Sicario: Day of the Soldado. If that film proved anything it’s that Sollima is capable of creating a fantastic, visually stimulating story. This time around he brings back his affinity for realistic action sequences without too much interference, allowing each moment to speak for itself. What makes a memorable action sequence is the focus of the scene being allowed to showcase what makes it special, such as knives in a knife fight or cars in a car chase. It also needs to have arguably the most important factor and that is the actor themselves performing the stunts in full view of the camera, complete with long takes and no edits hiding any shortcomings from either in front of or behind the camera. Without Remorse shines as Jordan fires guns, breaks limbs and stabs his way through countless henchmen on his way to the top of another one of those dagnabbit government conspiracies we see all too often these days.
I think it was agreed upon by Hollyweird a long time ago that realism when depicting the military has its limitations. Finding a balance between realistic enough and making an entertaining sequence is the key to a well-made, dare I say memorable movie featuring any scenes with the military at the forefront of the story. Things like technique in weapon handling is important, building infiltration techniques such as how to enter and clear a room are all things, to a certain extent, that a good filmmaker tries to recreate in a fictional setting.
Sometimes however they need, for proper storytelling, to inject some drama which can, at times, not necessarily cripple the realism but maybe handicap it a bit. So then, what becomes most important, in my most humble of opinions, is to keep the grandiose reputation of special forces, in this case the Navy SEALs, alive and breathing. In other words, when realism has to leave the room, keep the badass-ness fully intact and completely present in the scene. In this regard I think Without Remorse completely succeeds. Not only is Jordan believable in the military scenes, he’s always badass, always relatable, and it would feel disingenuous to negate the fact that dammit, the guy is just fun to watch and to root for. The combination of Taylor Sheridan and Stefano Sollima delivers again with Michael B. Jordan at the head of what I hope to be a fruitful franchise for years to come. Although well-tread, the path it chose, Without Remorse for the most part delivers on what it promises.
Rated R For: violence
Runtime: 110 minutes
After Credits Scene: Mid-credits, yes.
Genre: Action, Adventure, Thriller
Starring: Michael B. Jordan, Jodie Turner-Smith, Jamie Bell, Guy Pearce
Directed By: Stefano Sollima
Out of 10 Nerdskulls
Story: 6.5/ Acting: 8/ Directing: 8.5/ Visuals: 7.5
OVERALL: 8 Nerdskulls
Buy to Own: Yes. Streaming on Amazon Prime Video, April 30th.
Check out the trailer below:
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