I don't know if I've ever seen a movie with as much gunfire as "Without Remorse." Consider that a trigger warning.
The movie's full name is "Tom Clancy's Without Remorse," which is odd, since it takes considerable liberties with the plot, setting and time frame of Clancy's novel. Its fans will, however, recognize the basics: The wife of a former Navy SEAL is murdered and, with the unsteady help of the CIA, he seeks vengeance on the shooters and the shadowy (Russian? American? Syrian?) organization behind them. That's where the "without remorse" comes in.
It's one of those macho adventures that is less interested in suspense, morality or psychology than firepower. The screenplay by Taylor Sheridan and Will Staples has fun with the kind of plotting that propelled the TV series "Homeland." It keeps putting hero John Clark (Michael B. Jordan) in situations that would usually be the climax of a movie except he keeps ammo-ing his way out of them and immediately hurtling into another miniclimax.
But the movie is a grim affair with multiple shootouts, punctuated by anonymous voices insisting, "You need somebody like me. And there's nobody like me," "I've got eyes on him" and the like.
It could easily be dubbed "Without Humor," unless you count the unintentionally funny scene where "Without Remorse," like all movies with ripped actors, keeps Clark out of a gown so we can appreciate his torso while he lies in an intensive care unit. Once Clark gets out of Shirtless Hospital, Jordan proves that he's a charismatic action hero who's adept at connecting his character's bloodthirsty behavior to his grief.
Casting is the key way "Without Remorse" distinguishes itself from countless other dramas about vengeance seekers with particular skill sets. Jordan gets assistance from a CIA operative played by Jodie Turner-Smith ("Queen & Slim"), who seems a weird fit for the role of a taciturn policy wonk but who ends up hinting at unexpected dimensions to her character. And Jamie Bell seems way too young to tackle the sort of shades-of-gray spymaster that Gene Hackman used to play, but there, too, the idea of Billy Elliot making moves on the global espionage stage feels fresh and a little bit strange within the confines of this familiar tale.
Speaking of morality, it's probably best not to think too much about the dozens of innocent people Clark endangers while on his quest for vengeance or about the picture of the CIA created here. Most Americans probably are used to the idea that it often colors outside the lines, but "Without Remorse" goes further, depicting a rogue organization whose agents don't think any rules apply to them.
I wish the movie broke as many rules as its characters. Director Stefano Sollima rarely strays from the violent melodrama playbook but maybe he'll have a chance in a sequel, which is hinted at by a bonus sequence that comes halfway through the closing credits of "Without Remorse."
Chris Hewitt • 612-673-4367