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updated: 8/9/2012 6:57 PM

Less action, less personality mark Damonless 'Bourne' sequel

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  • A physically and mentally enhanced agent named Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner) becomes a target for his own country in the political paranoia sequel "The Bourne Legacy."

      A physically and mentally enhanced agent named Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner) becomes a target for his own country in the political paranoia sequel "The Bourne Legacy."

  • Agent Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner) escapes assassins with Dr. Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz) in the action thriller sequel "The Bourne Legacy."

      Agent Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner) escapes assassins with Dr. Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz) in the action thriller sequel "The Bourne Legacy."

  • Video: "The Bourne Legacy" trailer

 
 

The man in the white lab coat calmly and methodically removes the handles from the door of the research facility where he works. Now, no one can get out.

He calmly and methodically produces a semiautomatic pistol and begins shooting his friends and co-workers. They scream, run, try to hide, but he hunts them, shooting them until he runs out of ammunition and must reload to shoot again.

This scene from Tony Gilroy's "The Bourne Legacy" chills the marrow far more than the filmmakers could have imagined in the wake of two highly publicized mass shootings shortly before the movie's opening.

It's too real.

Too scary.

And too late.

By the time this scene pops up, a half-hour of "Bourne Legacy" has lapsed without much of anything going on beyond banal expository information being fired off so fast, you're praying there won't be a quiz at the end.

Once it gets going, "The Bourne Legacy" doesn't get going for very long. It offers a few quality kills and fleeting sensational stunts, but they're stuck in an overly lengthy movie (135 minutes) that needs one more pass through the editing software to get down to fighting weight.

"The Bourne Legacy" marks the third sequel in the frenetic, critically acclaimed action franchise based on Robert Ludlum's literary hero Jason Bourne. This one doesn't come from a Ludlum story, but an original script by director Tony Gilroy.

After "The Bourne Ultimatum" director Paul Greengrass dropped out of the series and star Matt Damon retired from playing Bourne, Gilroy (whose splendid "Michael Clayton" made my 2007 top 10 list) took over the franchise and Jeremy Renner replaced Damon.

Renner plays Aaron Cross, a genetically modified agent working for a secret government program called Outcome, not to be confused with Bourne's Treadstone.

Cross and at least five other Outcome agents take blue pills that boost brain function and take green pills that boost physical performance. Then, there are the yellow pills given to Outcome agents who unwittingly take them.

They're fatal.

Turns out that Eric Byer (Edward Norton), an amoral orchestrator of secret government operations, decides to eliminate all evidence of Outcome by killing everyone connected with the program.

Byer thinks that Cross has been killed by a drone in Alaska. But he escapes.

Hunted by the very people he once served, Cross is getting low on the blue and green pills he needs to keep his edge.

He seeks out Dr. Shearing (Rachel Weisz) whom he knows from the program. She is the sole survivor of the lab attack, and later, almost a victim of agents who try to force her to shoot herself.

So when Cross asks for help in securing his pills (called "chems"), she willingly helps.

Except that in this movie's idea of a joke, the U.S. government has outsourced the secret pill production to the Philippines, where Schearing and Cross must go to get the meds while racing against Byers' ability to track and kill them.

Renner, last seen armed with an archery set in "The Avengers," possesses a dark and weighty presence on screen, but lacks the charisma and powerful, athletic ease Damon brought to the character.

Unlike earlier "Bourne" films that overdosed on blurry, strobe-edited action scenes, "Bourne Legacy" underdoses on action, with the cerebral Gilroy clearly more interested in the mechanics of political paranoia than in chases.

Even after "Bourne Legacy" gets up to full-action speed in the Philippines with a superhuman assassin in hot pursuit of the couple, the climactic foot-chase/motorcyle-race finale is tediously drawn out and would have been punchier had Gilroy's editor brother John been more ruthless.

In Bourne-speak, this movie could have used a few more green pills and a few less blue ones.

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