Without Remorse is Amazon's latest high-profile entry in the streaming wars, an adaptation of a Tom Clancy novel starring the estimable Michael B. Jordan. All of which sounds great. The only problem is that it is as flat an action movie as I can remember, almost to the point of being boring.
And that takes some effort … which would've been better spent on a much stronger script.
The premise is simple, and fairly typical. Jordan plays John Kelly, a Navy SEAL who, after a hazardous mission in Aleppo during which he discovers that his team and he have been lied to my US government officials, is almost killed by assassins - who manage to successfully murder the other members of his team and his pregnant wife.
From there, Without Remorse actually becomes a run of the mill revenge fantasy as Kelly recovers from his near-fatal wounds and solicits another CIA mission in the hope of being able to find his wife's killers. There are twists and turns and double crosses, but not so much that one ever gets emotionally involved with any of them.
Jordan is okay in the lead, as are actors like Jamie Bell and Guy Pearce as government bureaucrats who may or may not have honest motives. The one standout is Jodie Turner-Smith as Lieutenant Commander Karen Greer - related to James Greer who makes many appearances in the Jack Ryan movies and TV shows - who brings grit and toughness to a role that requires - and gets - swagger.
I really wanted to like Without Remorse. Kelly - who later in his career became John Clark - has shown up in the person of Willem Dafoe in A Clear And Present Danger and Liev Schreiber in The Sum Of All Fears, and I really like what Amazon has done with the Jack Ryan series (which stars John Krasinski as Ryan, picking up where Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford, Ben Affleck and Chris Pine ably went before), though I do think the first season was better than the second.
But maybe Without Remorse is hamstrung by a format that emphasizes action over character, but to be honest, that seems more a choice than a limitation. I just wish they'd made different choices. Too bad.
One thing - from all reports, Without Remorse has generated great numbers for Amazon Prime Video. If they make another one - and the film suggests they will - it seems likely they'll make the same mistakes all over again.
The novelists who have taken up the various series begun by the great Robert B. Parker at their worst have largely been able to create the literary equivalent of comfort food, and at their best have taken much-loved characters (Spenser, Jesse Stone, Sunny Randall) and given them new dimensions and fresh perspectives. Either way, each new book is an opportunity to check in with old friends … and Mike Lupica's newest entry in the Sunny Randall series, "Robert B. Parker's Payback," is the third and perhaps the best of his contributions.
"Payback" begins with Sunny's best friend, Spike, losing his bar to a hedge fund king who lent him money during the pandemic. (One of the Lupica's smart moves is to place the book in a post-pandemic world … we see the fallout from Covid-19 without having it become a major character in the novel.) Sunny pledges to find out why Spike was targeted, while at the same time she agrees to help a policeman friend locate a lost niece. It isn't an entirely a surprise when the two cases intersect, and then the Russian mob gets involved, and, as Sherlock Holmes would've said, the game is afoot.
One of the curiosities of the book is that so many people from Parker's larger universe keep showing up - Frank Belson, Lee Farrell, Tony Marcus, Rita Fiore, Jesse Stone … and even Susan Silverman, who is Sunny's shrink. Everybody but Spenser … though his considerable presence can be felt throughout the novel, even in his absence.
My wine of the week is an excellent French white - the 2019 Gaillac Perle from Nathalie Larroque, which has just enough bite to be excellent with spicy food. It's terrific.
That's it for this week.
I hope you have a great weekend, and I'll see you Monday.
Stay safe. Be healthy.