A Tom Clancy thriller that bears little resemblance to the book it’s based on, along with a feel-good movie about getting stuck outdoors and a drama about a refugee stranded in Scotland headline our movie picks this week.
Here’s the roundup:
“Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse”: The serpentine plot’s been overhauled while the machismo swagger, a staple of Clancy’s works, has all but been written out. What remains of the late author’s 1993 bestseller is the main character, former Navy SEAL John Kelly, and his odyssey of revenge. And that, my friends, is really all you need. And Michael B. Jordan, of course.
By resurrecting Clancy’s second-tier hero Kelly and casting “Black Panther” actor Jordan, “Without Remorse” shows improves on its source material and delivers a satisfyingly sleek and ultra-violent spy thriller.
The primary reason “Remorse” works is Jordan, a muscled-up action hero who’s up to the physical and emotional challenges. His hair-trigger Kelly is out for revenge he’s targeted for a hit in the wake of a military mission in Syria to rescue a CIA operative.
Kelly’s vendetta takes him to a variety of settings while he spars with a shifty CIA agent (Jamie Bell), a former SEAL and now Lt. Commander (Jodie Turner-Smith, a welcome strong female presence in Clancy’s normally testosterone world) and a dandy of Secretary of Defense (Guy Pearce) who has a delectable taste in cuisine.
Director Stefano Sollima never lets up on the action while “Hell or High Water” scribe Taylor Sheridan and co-screenwriter Will Staples do a marvelous job salvaging a script that, like this project, has been bouncing around a while. Then again, this isn’t rocket science: “Without Remorse” knows exactly what’s expected from it, down to Jordan’s laughably gratuitous shirtless scene. But it’s executed with so much vigor that its preposterousness isn’t much of a bother.
Hardcore Clancy fans will likely be horrified at how much noodling’s been done to the original story. But for newbies to Amazon Prime’s Ryanverse, there’s much to sit back and enjoy. A word of advice, though, stay put once the credits roll for a hint on what’s yet to come. Details: 3 stars out of 4; available April 30 on Amazon Prime.
“Limbo”: With deadpan humor and deep pockets of empathy, writer/director Ben Sharrock details the refugee experience from the perspective of Omar (Amir El-Masry of “The Night Manager”), a musician from Syria who’s been shuttled to a Scottish island. Omar rooms with other refugees all awaiting news about their asylum requests. Sharrock’s gentle drama is nestled in understatements and tender moments, a stirring human story that plays out globally every day. Vikash Bhai is a discovery as one of Omar’s roommates who is harboring a secret. Details: 3½ stars; opens April 30 at select theaters.
“Things Heard & Seen”: Netflix continues to mine literary thrillers, and this one adapted from the Elizabeth Brundage novel “All Things Cease to Appear” by writers/directors Robert Pulcini and Shari Springer Berman of “American Splendor” hits and mostly misses. Oscar nominee Amanda Seyfried plays a not-too-happily married Manhattan woman relocating to a New York country house that’s got some bad mojo going on. Her smarmy but hot husband (James Norton) is an art professor with questionable morals and ethics. This half-baked chiller disintegrates in a nonsensical finale that makes you want to slap your forehead in disgust. It’s really too bad since Norton gives such a tremendously calculated performance and other individual elements work so well. Details: 2 stars; available April 30 on Netflix.
“The Mitchells vs. the Machines”: Silicon Valley figures prominently in this animated sci-fi comedy as a powerless Siri-like figure (voice of Oscar winner Olivia Colman) summons a robot rebellion on Earth. It’s up to the unwitting Mitchell family, on a road trip to deposit daughter Katie to film school, to save the planet. Producers Phil Lord, Christopher Miller and Kurt Albrecht give this spirited production a “Lego Movie” and “Spider-Man: Into the Spider Verse” vibe. It’s a high-caliber production from the animation to the screenplay and aces its clever commentary on our overly plugged-in times. Plus the Doug the Pug as Monchi stole my heart. Details: 3 stars; available April 30 on Netflix.
“Four Good Days”: Glenn Close reunites with filmmaker Rodrigo García, who directed her to an Oscar nomination with “Albert Nobbs” and also worked with her on “Nine Lives” and “Things You Can Tell By Just Looking at Her.” The result is a respectable if rather meh drama on the opioid epidemic that’s inspired by a far more impressive Pulitzer Prize-winning article from journalist Eli Saslow, who co-wrote the screenplay with García. Mila Kunis co-stars as twitchy 31-year-old Molly, a 10-year addict who once again shows up strung out at the home of her mother Deb’s (Close). Deb opts for tough love, although a new treatment hints of hope. García’s film hews to the traditional, and the screenplay feels like the characters are sometimes just making talking points about addiction. Still, “Four Good Days” nails what addiction is like for the afflicted and those who love them. Close and Kunis work well together. Details: 2½ stars; in select theaters April 30.
“The Outside Story”: One of the sweetest surprises of this spring is Casimir Nozkowski’s radiant, big-hearted New York story. Anchored around a huggable performance from Brian Tyree Henry, it takes the simple premise of an average guy (Henry) getting locked out of his apartment and turns it into a joyous celebration of getting to know your neighbors and neighborhood. Henry’s encounters with a by-the-book parking enforcement officer, a threesome upstairs and an elderly neighbor nearby will lift your spirits. Details: 3½ stars; available April 30 on Apple TV.
“Wet Season”: While it shares elements with the Hulu series “A Teacher,” director Anthony Chen’s somber yet hopeful film doesn’t wallow in the tawdry. “Wet Season” has bigger goals, and comes up with a definitive feminist statement in the story about teacher/caregiver/wife Ling (Yeo Yan Yan). She’s overlooked, overworked and utterly depleted and still trying to get pregnant with an often-absent husband. Enter the handsome but attentive student Weilun (Koh Jia Ler, a stunning performance) with a secret. Chen’s moody-looking feature, set during the monsoon season, aches with repression. It’s also as outraged as “Promising Young Woman” over how men mistreat women. It was Singapore’s entry for this year’s best international feature Oscar, and a well-deserved one at that. Details: 3½ stars; available to stream April 30.
Contact Randy Myers at email@example.com.