Without Remorse: Film Review

Without Remorse

A movie adaptation of Tom Clancy’s novel Without Remorse has been in development since the ’90s, and finally, after many changes to the director, writer, and cast, the movie has been made once and for all.

Michael B. Jordan stars as John Kelly, a US Navy SEAL who leads an operation to rescue a CIA operative taken hostage by ex-Russian military forces in Aleppo, Syria. Three months later, after he’s retired from the military ahead of his wife Pam (Lauren London) giving birth to their first child, Russian assassins retaliate by killing two SEALs from the Aleppo rescue and Pam and shooting John twice. Once he’s recovered, John embarks on a mission to avenge his wife’s murder and get to the bottom of the conspiracy.

Without Remorse is very much a conventional action thriller which doesn’t show us anything we haven’t seen before, with the exception of the performances (which I’ll get to soon). It is perfectly watchable and held my attention for the most part, but Jordan and his cast members deserved a movie that’s a cut above your average and mixes things up whereas this follows a familiar, well-trodden path.

I expected more from the screenplay given that it’s written by Taylor Sheridan – of Hell or High Water, Sicario and Wind River fame – but it’s just serviceable. It does the job, nothing more, nothing less. I didn’t really care about getting to the bottom of the conspiracy, possibly because the ultimate bad guy was so obvious that the reveal lacked a thrill.

I also would have liked Stefano Sollima to have given us more interesting and gripping action sequences. There was a fight in prison that showed promise (on a shallow front, Jordan being topless probably helped) but that was too short-lived, while on the flipside, the Russia sequence felt too long and drawn out and my concentration started to drop. The airplane sequence looked cool though.

Thankfully, Jordan makes the film better than it rightfully should be. He has proven that he’s physically capable with fight and stunt choreography in Black Panther and the Creed films, and Without Remorse properly cements his status as an action star. Kelly is a dangerous man with nothing left to live for and he definitely isn’t mentally sound enough to take on a mission and Jordan nailed his slightly unhinged persona.

Jodie Turner-Smith is awesome as Lt. Commander Karen Greer, a decorated Navy SEAL, and her character is something of a trailblazer considering there are still no female Navy SEALs in real-life. She is Kelly’s closest ally and the most grounded and level-headed member of the team. Hats off to Turner-Smith for shooting this physically intensive role while pregnant too!

Elsewhere, Jamie Bell and Guy Pearce play CIA agents who are under suspicion of being corrupt and are convincingly shifty, while there isn’t enough Colman Domingo, who makes a small appearance as a pastor.

It is already well known that Jordan has signed on to play the character in Rainbow Six next and while this isn’t the strongest launch, the premise sounds very different to this origins story and the teaser left me intrigued.

On Amazon Prime Video from Friday 30th April

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom: Netflix Film Review

Ma Rainey's Black Bottom

Like millions of others around the globe, I was shocked and upset about the death of Chadwick Boseman in August, and while seeing him on screen makes me sad because it reminds me he’s gone, I found some solace in the fact that he delivers an almighty final performance in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.

The film is set in a recording studio in Chicago on one hot and sweaty afternoon in 1927. Ma Rainey (Viola Davis), the fearless diva known as the Mother of the Blues, is running late and her band await her arrival in the rehearsal room where tensions arise between hot-headed trumpeter Levee (Boseman), bandleader Cutler (Colman Domingo), bassist Slow Drag (Michael Potts), and pianist Toledo (Glynn Turman). Levee ruffles feathers by flirting with Ma’s girlfriend and making his desire to play his own music and start his own band known.

I hadn’t done any reading up on this before I settled down to watch it and within 15-20 minutes it became immediately obvious that this was based on a play – one by August Wilson, I discovered later. A good chunk of the film is spent in the downstairs rehearsal room where the band spends more time bickering than rehearsing and then the action moves upstairs to the recording room once Ma eventually shows up. Levee has a huge amount of dialogue as he goes off on rants about various grievances and verbally spurs with the band about all sorts. It was interesting to a point but I was glad when Ma arrived to change up the dynamic.

The performances are the main draw here and I expect to see Boseman and Davis’ names come up during awards season. This is Davis like you’ve never seen her before. She is practically unrecognisable as Ma thanks to the weight she gained for the role, plus the heavy make-up and gold teeth she wears, and the fact she is drenched in sweat. Ma is fierce, determined, and refuses to make any compromises – things have to be exactly her way, much to the displeasure of her white manager Irvin (Jeremy Shamos) and producer Sturdyvant (Jonny Coyne). I considered her the lead since she’s the title character, but she’s surprisingly not in it as much as I expected.

Knowing what we know about Boseman now, it’s truly incredible that he managed to pull off such a barnstorming performance in his last-ever film role. There is so much anger and rage in Levee from past trauma and it requires so much energy to go off his rants. He is a man on the edge and out of control and Boseman throws his all into the role. I’ll be amazed if he doesn’t get honoured posthumously for this.

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom takes a while to get going but really hits its stride when Ma shows up – the recording scenes are a fascinating watch – and from there it builds to a shocking finale. Definitely worth checking out.

Streaming on Netflix from Friday 18th December

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Assassination Nation: Film Review

Assassination Nation was one of the films on my watch list for the London Film Festival and I was gutted to miss it at the time but it turns out I didn’t miss out on too much, because it was cool but very messy.

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