By Alex McPherson

“Without Remorse,” roughly based on Tom Clancy’s 1993 novel, is a serviceable yet forgettable action film elevated by a committed performance from Michael B. Jordan.

We follow John Kelly (Jordan), a Navy SEAL chief who finds himself immersed in an international conspiracy with a gargantuan body count. After rescuing a CIA operative in Aleppo, Syria, and unexpectedly encountering Russian military forces, all hell breaks loose. Three months later, Russian FSB operatives brutally murder two SEAL team members who participated in the mission. They also execute Kelly’s wife, Pam (Lauren London), and unborn child. While Kelly is able to kill three of the operatives at his house, one escapes.

Mean-spirited CIA officer Ritter (Jamie Bell) and Defense Secretary Clay (Guy Pearce) want to brush the situation under the rug for fear of starting an international incident, but Kelly takes matters into his own hands. Thanks to the help of his superior officer, Lt. Commander Greer (Jodie Turner-Smith), Kelly gets the intel necessary to exact revenge without, well, much remorse or self preservation. After being arrested and branded a felon for his vengeful acts, he’s placed on a black ops team to eliminate those responsible once and for all. Copious bloodshed ensues, and Kelly eventually acquires the last name of “Clark.”

Worth watching if only for Jordan’s acting chops, “Without Remorse” ends up feeling predictable, dated, and shallow by the end credits — squandering an opportunity to give Kelly much depth, or present a storyline that isn’t swamped in clichés. That’s not to say there isn’t some entertainment value to be found here, however, as Jordan’s performance remains consistently engaging, and director Stefano Sollima knows how to stage punchy, visceral set pieces.

Indeed, even though “Without Remorse” fails to delve into Kelly’s psychology beyond the surface level, Jordan’s portrayal lends him a damaged, unhinged quality. Jordan convincingly sells the fact that Kelly has nothing left to lose and is ready to die for retribution over his family’s killing. He’s always a gripping presence onscreen, and we can infer deeper tensions from his body language alone, even if Taylor Sheridan’s script avoids any kind of real complexity in his character or the larger plot he’s embroiled in. 

Similarly, side characters, particularly Turner-Smith, turn in decent performances, but they end up feeling quite plain. There’s little to latch onto emotionally across the board, and “Without Remorse” fails to make any kind of meaningful social commentary. The plot twists are easy to foresee, ending with patriotic sentiments that caused me to roll my eyes.    

If only Sollima’s film had given us more time to grow attached to Pam before she’s unceremoniously riddled with bullets, or provided any unique spin on the “America vs. Russia” trope, then perhaps “Without Remorse” could have stood out from its military-obsessed competition. Alas, for all the film’s thematic failings, it still remains enjoyable, due to the slickly choreographed shoot-em-up sequences peppered throughout.

Jordan, ripped as ever, absolutely shines in these scenes. A brutal interrogation within a burning car, an underwater escape from a downed airplane, and a claustrophobic punch out in a jail cell stand out in particular. It’s too bad the final-act skirmishes feel repetitive and too video gamey to impress. They’re sometimes dimly lit and, reflective of other elements, feel generic.

As a precursor to more Tom Clancy films down the road, “Without Remorse” carries out its mission dutifully, but uncreatively. Jordan, holding the whole ordeal together with his jacked arms, deserves better. 

“Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse” is a 2021 action thriller directed by Stefano Sollima and starring Michael B. Jordan, Guy Pearce, Jamie Bell, Jodie Turner-Smith, Colman Domingo and Lauren London. Rated R for violence, the movie runs 1 hr. 49 minutes. Streaming on Amazon Prime beginning April 30. Alex’s Rating: B-

By Lynn Venhaus

War criminal or war hero? Man of mystery artist and art dealer Han van Meegeren became a man of infamy after World War II. But his true story has been mostly forgotten until “The Last Vermeer,” which recounts this notorious case in a melodramatic and twisty narrative.

The time is 1945 and the place is Holland. The found painting is “Christ and the Adulteress” by Dutch Master Johannes Vermeer of the 17th century baroque period.

van Meegeren (Guy Pearce) is suspected of selling stolen Dutch art treasures to Hermann Goering and other upper echelon Nazis during World War II. Now that the war is over, Joseph Piller (Claes Bang), a Dutch Jew, becomes an investigator assigned to identify and redistribute the paintings. Van Meegeren is accused of collaboration, which is a crime punishable by death. Piller and his assistant (Vicky Krieps) are convinced he’s innocent – despite mounting evidence – and will fight to save his life.

The procedural screenplay, written by Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby, is based on an adaptation of Jonathan Lopez’s, “The Man Who Made Vermeers,” and gets considerable mileage from Guy Pearce as the flamboyant van Meegeren.

The role gives theb Australian actor plenty of scenery to chew, for the art dealer was a smooth operator. After the Germans occupied the Netherlands, he threw lavish parties and showed no signs of a moral compass.

Pearce, who disappears into every role he’s in, from “L.A. Confidential” and “Memento” to “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert” and “Iron Man 3,” digs in and is quite saucy about the secrets he’s hiding.  

All that hedonism rubs stoic soldier Joseph Piller the wrong way, although he’s not above resorting to shenanigans to keep the government stooges out of his way. As colorful as van Meegeren is, Piller is lacking in flavor. Bang, so good in “The Square” and “The Burnt Orange Heresy,” both movies dealing with art, is rather dull and stiff here.

The women characters are underserved and the supporting cast plays standard characters all in service to the story, which leads us to a climactic court scene full of fireworks. Van Meegeren’s argument is that he defrauded the Nazis, no collaboration.

The movie’s a tad clumsy under the first-time direction by Dan Friedkin but redeems itself in the final third.

With “The Last Vermeer,” there seems to be an endless stream of World War II characters whose story is enough to build a film around, like “Resistance” earlier this year.

The film’s courtroom drama outshines its thriller elements. It serves a purpose as both a history lesson and an art tutorial.

“The Last Vermeer” is a drama, directed by Dan Friedkin and stars Guy Pearce, Claes Bang and Vicky Krieps.
Rated R for some language, violence and nudity, the run-time is 1 hr. 58 minutes. Lynn’s Grade:: B-. The film opened in theatres on Nov. 20,