ST. LOUIS — "When everyone thinks you're dead, that's the one thing we got going for us."
Midway through "Tom Clancy's Without Remorse," a devastating plane crash sequence takes place, with our hero, John Kelly (Michael B. Jordan, in full-blown movie star mode) holding his breath for several minutes before reaching the top of the ocean. He's been wronged, something has been taken from him, and the man isn't going to stop until a cold slab of revenge sits on a chilled plate.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is my kind of movie. The no-frills action adventure type with a one-track mind. The goal of Stefano Sollima's franchise-launcher is to introduce us to Jordan's man of action, and re-introduce us to every 80's action trope known to man.
And I am cool with that. A genre film like this, a tier down from Harrison Ford's Jack Ryan movie series as well as John Krasinski's Ryan TV series, just needs to entertain. Resonating with the viewer isn't needed. Look around. Pregnant wives are murdered for Navy Seal missions gone wrong. The conspiracy runs long and endlessly. The bad guys are Russian. The main back-stabbing character is usually seen an hour before the actual reveal. The hero, ever so cunning and unkillable, is shocked by this. Run the play and it will be riveting enough.
When your quarterback is Jordan, who carries conviction and star power, you don't need to score on one scene-even if the plane sequence is wholly original and patient in its setup. Rooting himself in hardcore dramas like "The Wire" and "Fruitvale Station" allow the thrills to transition into drama seamlessly, while the physicality doesn't seem to be hard for the actor to maintain. No wonder he's so mad the entire film: the man hasn't eaten a carb since "Black Panther" training started.
Like his retired Erik Killmonger, Kelly is a man torn by war and out for vengeance. Taylor Sheridan and Will Staples' screenplay doesn't hope to reinvent the wheel, only supply the movie star with multiple opportunities to show off his hero skills. But the gun fights and knuckle wars here are very well choreographed and aren't merely recycled from past films. Sheridan may not be flexing his authentic "Hell or High Water" storytelling skills here, but he knows how to construct a startling action sequence.
It's those patient and at-times visceral scenes that make the film climb over the clichés it was born with. A battle with a sniper slightly past the midway mark could have finished in a swift second, but it extends a little while and stands with the plane sequence as something you don't always get with this kind of pie.
I won't tell you to watch "Without Remorse" immediately, but find time for it this weekend. Get lost in it. Don't get lost in Jordan's abs or pecs, just focus on the sizzling Jodie Turner-Smith (so good in "Queen and Slim") taking care of business as Kelly's ride or die. Outside of her, the supporting cast doesn't offer much to remember. Sorry, Guy Pearce and Jamie Bell. (Not really, they still got paid and all.)
Bottom Line: Movies like this-the guilty, go-for-broke simple pleasures-are required to balance out the heavier, more thoughtful films with something to say. Sometimes, you just want to watch one mad man find justice, and find it the hard way. Michael B. Jordan is up to the task in "Tom Clancy's Without Remorse." I'll take this for round one.