Review: “WITHOUT REMORSE” (2021) Amazon Studios

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Based on the Jack Ryan universe created by spy novelist extraordinaire Tom Clancy, “WITHOUT REMORSE” focuses on one of the most popular characters in the saga: John Kelly aka the future John Clark, as he gets his own origin story here from writers Taylor Sheridan and Will Staples, directed by Stefano Sollima.

The films opens with a big action soaked scene of a hostage rescue in Aleppo, Syria, with Senior Chief John Kelly (Michael B. Jordan,) as part of a Navy Seal team, on what is clearly supposed to be a easy in and out hostage rescue. But of course it doesn’t go as planned and the recourse of what happens here, ends up changing John Kelly’s life forever. Fast forward after the attack gone wrong, John finds himself back at home in Washington D.C. happily awaiting the birth of his first child with his wife Pam (Lauren London), when they are attacked, leaving him badly wounded, while Pam and his unborn child are killed.

The attack, by a team of Russian assassins is payback and now John wants revenge, but the bureaucratic response from the higher ups at the Department of Defense and CIA agent Robert Ritter (Jamie Bell), gives it a no go. In steps Secretary of Defense Thomas Clay (Guy Pearce), who seems willing to blur the lines somewhat given what John has gone through, and we have the greenlight for John to be part of the team to go in to this time capture ex-Spetznaz agent Victor Rykov (Brett Gelman), although not without some hesitancy from his Commander and friend Karen Greer (Jodie Turner-Smith). All the while, this has been more John seeking justice for the murder of his pregnant wife, but it seems while wanting to do so, he has uncovered what is truly at hand, a covert plot that threatens to engulf the United States and Russia in an all-out war. Of course, things go once again upside down and the rest of the film turns into more of a personal payback mission for John.

The film, which also already has a second part on the way ~ courtesy of a mid-credits scene – updates and changes drastically not only the origin of the character, but the original plot of the story as well, which ends up giving us the feeling like it’s been seen a thousand times before. Not only because he is a military man who seeks revenge for the murder of his family, but also because he rekindles that been there – done that – conflict between the United States and Russia. While the hunt for the Russians keeps throwing our hero into explosive situations, ultimately revealing who the real villain is (to no one’s surprise) is part of the predictability process that is so very well….predictable. It’s the kind of tedious thriller where you spot the villain instantaneously, and realize who the backstabber is without even trying to. The one high point of it all for those who follow this character in Clancy novels, is this is also the telling of how John Kelly became John Clark and it’s moments like that that give it the much needed elevation we all wanted. Sadly, it’s brief, but boy can it be taken from here and really have something special come out of it, well we will have to just wait and see, as the action was decent and well as the acting.

On it’s good side, Jordan is a born action star and if this film is a hit, and future scripts possibly revamped, it could be a major franchise. Jodie Turner-Smith does well enough and all this flack that a woman can’t be a SEAL is just silly. It has been great seeing Guy Pearce come back to the big screen as well, he played his part perfectly, and look forward to having more of him in the future. The true error in all this is the book would have been ideal as an 8 part mini series. There is so much to explore and it could have set up a whole Clark universe with new stories being set in the 80’s, 90’s and beyond, you can’t help but think. So. Much. Potential.

C-

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Review Screening: Courtesy of ~ Ginsberg/Libby PR

“WITHOUT REMORSE” is available on Amazon Prime Friday, April 30, 2021

REVIEW: “THE COURIER” (2021) Lionsgate

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Benedict Cumberbatch is undoubtedly best when speaking in his own voice i.e, accent, giving us characters he can sink into and he proves this to us again in “THE COURIER”. Director Dominic Cooke along with writer Tom O’Connor, bring us this nail-biting tale based on the true story of Greville Wynn, a English salesman turned Cold War spy.

With Benedict Cumberbatch starring as our lead, Greville Wynne, who by all accounts is a happy-go-lucky English, drinking & golfing businessman who is married to Sheila (Jessie Buckley), and the father to Andrew (Keir Hills). Wynne is invited by acquaintance Dickie Franks (Angus Wright), to have lunch with an American “consultant” Emily Donovan (Rachel Brosnahan), where he is pressed into “service” for Great Britain, and with the line “I can’t believe I’m having lunch with spies” tells us just how he thinks he’s sitting at the ‘cool kids’ table and you read not only the shock on his face, but the underlying thrill in it as well.

Wynne’s mission, should he accept it, (yes, I know – completely different movie but is just so apt here) and let’s be honest here, there isn’t much of a choice. is to travel to Moscow and collect nuclear defense images of Russia’s presence in Cuba from one Col. Oleg Penkovsky (Mereb Ninidze). Penkovsky is a high-ranking Soviet officer who has grown wary of Nikita Khrushchev’s (Vladimir Chuprikov) threats of nuclear war. Realizing how close to fruition they are coming, Penkovsky is willing to betray his country to save his family and the world, risking everything, including his life.

It’s a startling tale of what one person can actually do to change the course of the world and again, along with decent acting and the refreshing take of Cumberbatch not trying to do accents he just doesn’t succeed in, here it all comes together along with a top performance by Ninidze and Buckley as well. Brosnahan proves that she can be more than just ‘Mrs. Maisel’ as well, with a completely believable turn as the American who first helps turn Wynne from a salesman to a spy, and then is the one who steps in to help as well. ‘The Courier’ adds verifiability to the overall vibe with a look of a desaturated, grim tone color palette, which definitely set the scene for the movie.

All in all, this one is a good thriller with a remarkable story and tension that won’t let you go until the very end.

Grade: B

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Review Screening: Courtesy of ~ Ginsberg/Libby PR

“THE COURIER” is available on Video on Demand (VOD) Friday, April 16, 2021.