I’ve been saying for years now that I’ve desperately wanted Hollywood to start adapting the Tom Clancy novels into proper films again. I’m hindsight, maybe I didn’t realize what I was asking for.
When Tom Clancy wrote books like Hunt for Red October, Patriot Games, Cardinal of the Kremlin and Without Remorse, he was writing them as contemporary political thrillers that corresponded to things happening in real world politics.
When I said I wanted adaptations of them, I meant I wanted period piece thrillers set during the Cold War where the stories were borrowing from the real life events much as the Harrison Ford and Alec Baldwin films did.
In hindsight, every Tom Clancy adaptation we’ve gotten since has been overtly trying to play the same song Clancy did in his books. They want to be overly serious gritty modern day stories about real life issues surround Islamic terrorism, destabilization of South American governments and Russian corruption. That was the path Jack Ryan Shadow Recruit and Amazon’s Jack Ryan chose to transplant their stories into.
Even realizing that, I’m still left very cold by the newest film adaptation Without Remorse. This new film, dropped on Amazon Prime earlier this year, marks the first time since 2002’s The Sum of All Fears that Hollywood has even nominally tried to adapt any of the Clancy books. Like that film, it diverge so radically from the source material that it may be pushing just how much it can be called an adaptation.
Without Remorse was Tom Clancy’s attempt at re-engineering the success of the First Blood/Rambo franchise of books and films. The lead character John Kelly is a Vietnam veteran who’s wife is killed and who is sent on a secret mission to Vietnam to rescue a sensitive asset. Things go wrong and story ensues, which eventually sets up a lead-in to Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six.
This film adaptation is an attempt to transplant the outline of the original story into a politically topical grindhouse action film not dissimilar from Taken or John Wick, with the clear hopes that they can make a John Kelly action franchise out of it. And I can’t tell you how tired those words make me…
The film was brought to life by the screen-pair of Taylor Sheridan and Stefano Sollima, the same team that gave us the remarkably underwhelming Sicario 2: Day of Soldado. I once said Sheridan was one of the greatest screenwriters alive but that was when he was churning out work like Hell or High Water on a yearly basis.
Without Remorse feels both like a cash grab and an attempt to sell out into blockbuster success by appealing to the big trends in modern moviemaking. It’s a very lazy feeling action film with a rudderless tone not dissimilar to the last ten disposable Liam Neesan films you watched and forgot about.
The film feigns a lot of maudlin depth by giving its star Michael B. Jordan lots of didactic speeches about American military overreach and how black soldiers are under appreciated but it’s all so much cardboard over a vapid story.