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On-screen dynamo Michael B. Jordan as the out-for-blood hero in Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse.

Nadja Klier/Paramount Pictures

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  • Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse
  • Directed by Stefano Sollima
  • Written by Taylor Sheridan and Will Staples, based on the novel by Tom Clancy
  • Starring Michael B. Jordan, Jodie Turner-Smith and Guy Pearce
  • Classification R; 100 minutes

Late in Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse, the new cumbersomely titled military thriller, a spy expresses his disappointment with the humdrum name of his new alias. “Real creative,” the man moans. “The CIA isn’t exactly known for that,” his commander replies. Neither, I guess, is the team behind this adaptation, an action pic pumped and dumped straight from the factory floor of Tom Clancy Inc.

Leagues better than both 2014′s Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit and 2002′s The Sum of All Fears, representing far less commitment than the Amazon Prime Video series Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan, but many times worse than the early 1990s high-water trifecta of The Hunt for Red October, Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger, Without Remorse is a half-hearted attempt to exfiltrate an espionage brand that just won’t come in from the cold. If you like your shootouts generic, your characters disposable and your plot twists as predictable as airport newsstand merchandise, then have I got the far-from-impossible mission for you.

Story continues below advertisement

Jamie Bell plays an American agent in Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse.

Nadja Klier/Paramount Pictures

At least Without Remorse gets one thing right: casting on-screen dynamo Michael B. Jordan as the out-for-blood hero. Playing special forces operative John Kelly, who must track down the assassins who killed his pregnant wife, Jordan radiates easy, cool, don’t-dare-mess-with-me charm. It is just a shame that the rest of the film never comes close to matching his tough and buff level of energy.

If you’ve seen one Clancy adaptation, you’ve seen this one, too: One noble patriot has to fight against foreign enemies; slippery government agents; and many, many lines of dialogue slathered with military jargon. Here, Kelly is up against Russians (bizarrely represented here by the accent-free comic actor Brett Gelman), two slick Washington types who might be bad guys but might also be allies (Jamie Bell and Guy Pearce) and whatever protocols his superior officer (Jodie Turner-Smith, in an interestingly androgynous role) is mumbling about.

Jacob Scipio, Jack Kesy, Michael B. Jordan and Cam Gigandet in Without Remorse.

Nadja Klier/Paramount Pictures

Every 25 minutes or so, realizing that his audience is quietly dozing off, director Stefano Sollima (who reteams with his Sicario: Day of the Soldado screenwriter Taylor Sheridan) throws in a nifty-enough set-piece that demonstrates just how big a bad-ass Kelly really is. Here he is lighting a car on fire and then jumping inside of it to interrogate its trapped inhabitant. Here he is readying to fight a battalion of correctional officers with nothing but his pecs and a well-placed towel. Here he is bracing for impact as a commercial airliner crashes into the ocean. The strategy works until it doesn’t – these scenes are the exhaust fumes of a better, more engaging thriller that only exists in Sollima’s mind.

Don’t worry, though: I’m sure if Amazon Prime Video’s numbers are decent enough, Without Remorse is only the beginning of a new Clancyverse. One that will surely tie into Amazon’s John Krasinski-led Jack Ryan series (and I guess give more screen time to Colman Domingo, who pops up here for 15 puzzling seconds). Good for the Clancy estate, and good for Jordan, I suppose. But if there is indeed a sequel, I’m going into deep cover. And you can bet that my alias will be a lot better than the one that Sollima and company come up with here.

Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse is available to stream on Amazon Prime Video starting April 30

In the interest of consistency across all critics’ reviews, The Globe has eliminated its star-rating system in film and theatre to align with coverage of music, books, visual arts and dance. Instead, works of excellence will be noted with a Critic’s Pick designation across all coverage.

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