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Film / Without Remorse

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Without Remorse is a 2021 action film starring Michael B. Jordan. It is loosely based on the Tom Clancy novel of the same name.

John Kelly is a Navy SEAL whose wife was murdered by Russian mercenaries in retaliation for his role in a top secret op. While pursuing the assassins, he finds himself in the middle of a conspiracy that threatens to ignite an all-out war between the U.S. and Russia.

The film was released on April 30, 2021 exclusively on Prime Video. A sequel based on Rainbow Six is confirmed to be in development with Jordan reprising his role and will be helmed by John Wick director Chad Stahelski.

Without Remorse provides examples of:

  • Action Girl: Lt. Commander Karen Greer, the leader of Kelly's SEAL team.
  • Adaptational Backstory Change: In the novels, Pamela Madden was a prostitute who was drugged, raped and abused by her drug dealer and pimp before escaping and meeting John where they fell in love after the latter helps her in rehabilitation. In the movie, Pam doesn't have the same dark background like her novel counterpart. Furthermore, Pam is John's wife in this version and have known each other for a long time.
    • Additionally, Karen Greer was created for this movie primarily to modernize James Greer's role in the story. James himself exists as Karen's uncle in a thinly veiled attempt to connect with the Jack Ryan TV series.
  • A-Team Firing: Averted. John and a black-ops merc shoot at each other at close range and most, if not all, of the bullets fired between them find their mark. John makes it. The merc doesn't.
  • Big Bad: Secretary Clay, trying to start a war between Russia and America in an attempt to unify the country with a Genghis Gambit.
  • Bloodless Carnage: Surprisingly for an R-rated movie. Aside from a small amount seen when John and his wife are shot, all the violence is devoid of blood.
  • Darker and Edgier: This is the first Jack Ryan movie to be given an R rating since Patriot Games.
  • Darkened Building Shootout: The climax.
  • Elites Are More Glamorous: The SEALs were deployed to war-torn Aleppo to extract a CIA agent held prisoner.
  • Failed a Spot Check: The SEAL team member who gets taken out by a speeding car. On an otherwise quiet road. A very straight road. With excellent visibility in each direction. Made even more implausible by the fact that not only are they a highly-trained operative but also a parent of young children whose parent supersenses would have clocked that car coming from several miles away.
  • False Flag Operation: The confrontation with Rykov reveals that the events of the movie have been an elaborate scheme to ensure that dead Russian operatives end up on American soil and dead American operatives end up on a Russian soil.
  • In Name Only: Aside from the fact that the main character is a Navy SEAL named John Kelly, the film bears very little resemblance the original novel (which is set during the Vietnam War and follows Kelly as prepares a covert operation to rescue an Air Force pilot held prisoner in North Vietnam and hunts for a mole in the CIA, all while going on a revenge-fueled assassination spree against a Baltimore drug ring).
  • I Never Said It Was Poison: Kelly gets proof of the Big Bad's identity when he casually mentions a detail of the mission to Russia that wasn't in the official After Action Report and Clay doesn't react to it.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: The CIA coldly decides not to pursue the people who ordered the killings of Kelly's wife and teammates because they fear that senior Russian officials are involved and any retaliation against them could cause a war between the US and Russia. Kelly and Greer find this action cowardly and dishonorable and go rogue in order to pursue justice/revenge. However, the CIA is correct in their assessment and Kelly spends the climax of the movie desperately trying to cover up the presence of US soldiers on Russian soil because the revelation could provoke a war between US and Russia.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Ritter is very much an asshole for most of the film, but his combination of Frontline General tendencies for a politico and his discovery that he’s also an Unwitting Pawn reveals him as John’s ally.
  • No One Gets Left Behind: John rescues Greer in the opening action sequence because of this. Later, the trope receives a dark reprise, as their assault on Rykov’s Russian hideout has them have to carry out a dead teammate, not just from Due to the Dead, but also because they’ve realized the False Flag Operation above.
  • Plausible Deniability: Lampshaded by Kelly when he realizes that the actions of the US team could provoke a war between the US and Russia. His teammates are serving members of the US military and their presence on Russian soil would be seen as an act of war against Russia. They cannot be captured or their bodies found in an identifiable state. On the other hand, Kelly is officially a rogue operator who escaped from prison while awaiting trial for murder. If the Russians catch him or are able to identify his body, the US government can deny any involvement and claim that Kelly was on a personal vendetta. This means that Kelly is the only one who can engage the Russian police and has to create a distraction big enough that his teammates can get away without being identified.
  • Race Lift: John and Pam are black in the movie while their novel counterparts were white.
  • Rated M for Manly: There is no blood, swearing, sex or substance abuse to speak of in this R rated actioner. But you have a bona-fide badass Anti-Hero who will violate regulations to assault and torture a Russian delegate out in the open, fire upon Russian police to provide cover for his men, and beat the ever living crap out of several armored guards who have detained him wearing only prison pants; which isnt very common in many PG-13 heroes.
  • Red Herring: Ritter is established as a Jerkass willing to treat John and his teams as expendable to accomplish his mission, but he manages to convince John he’s not the Big Bad setting them up even under Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique. Turns out the real Big Bad is Clay.
  • Reusable Lighter Toss: Used to intimidate and gather information.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: John is set on one by the murder of his pregnant wife. Being an Navy SEAL, it’s a brutally efficient and effective one. Clay tries to use him as a Xanatos Sucker, but when that doesn’t work, John comes for him, backed by resources Ritter gave him.
  • Say My Name: Inverted as John wants the man behind his pregnant wife’s death to say neither his name nor their own... but that of his wife instead. And at the end of the film, Clay indeed dies saying her name repeatedly.
  • Sequel Hook: The Stinger sets up one for Rainbow Six.
  • Setting Update: Takes place in the 21st century instead of post-1975 after the Vietnam War.
  • Sniper Duel: There is one of these in the climax.
  • Spanner in the Works: John’s survival of the attack on his house is unexpected and not part of Secretary Clay’s master plan, so an attempt is made at Xanatos Speed Chess to use John on the False Flag Operation above... but John survives again...
  • Spin-Offspring: Karen Greer is established as James Greer's niece, taking over James's role in the story.
  • The Stinger: John meets with Ritter secretly in DC a year after the movie to present a proposal for a multinational counter-terrorist unit called "Rainbow" to the President for consideration.
  • Twofer Token Minority: Again, Lt. Commander Greer, an African-American woman in charge of a Navy SEAL team. To date, no SEAL team has been led by any woman or minority in real life. Just to put this in perspective, it was only very recently (like 2021 recently) that the first woman of any race completed the required SEAL/SWCC training program, and that was just to be able to transport SEALS to and from missions.