The “Jason Bourne” franchise has cranked out highly effective little thrillers that have stood out because they were well-acted and well-directed.
There never was a ton to hang your hat on plot-wise though. The A formula quickly developed where Matt Damon was given a girl to protect, was chased around the world and each time narrowly escaped his hunters much to the chagrin of shadowy government agents tasked with bringing him in.
Things were clicking along nicely until Paul Greengrass (director of the second and third installments) walked away, with Damon right behind saying he wouldn’t make another Bourne movie without Greengrass.
But there was money to be made and with the formula in place, Tony Gilroy, who has written all the Bourne films, was moved into the director’s chair and Jeremy Renner was handed the lead role. The result is “The Bourne Legacy.”
The drop-off in quality is noticeable and while in and of itself “Legacy” isn’t a bad film, it pales in comparison to its predecessors.
This movie is well-acted, especially in the supporting roles. Renner is solid, although he’s nowhere near as compelling an actor to watch as Damon.
Renner can be great, as his Oscar nominations for “The Hurt Locker” and “The Town” can attest, but he’s a little out of his element as a leading man.
Renner is not taking over the role of Jason Bourne, but instead plays a new character named Aaron Cross, an equally physically and mentally enhanced special agent who exists in the same universe as Bourne.
In spite of my nit-picking, Renner really isn’t the problem with “Legacy.” The downfall lies in the dodgy plotting and extreme attention to detail.
Most movies err on the side of not giving the audience enough information about what’s going on (cough “Battleship” cough), whereas “Legacy” bombards you with way too much.
By cramming the movie with so many details, including a ton of minutiae from “The Bourne Ultimatum,” it is impossible to tell when “Legacy” is being mysterious or just plain hard to follow.
Aaron Crosswinds up on the run when the top-secret program of building more Jason Bourne-like soldiers gets shut down. And by shut down, I mean everyone who was involved gets killed.
Aaron seeks out the program’s only other survivor, genetic scientist Dr. Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz) and the two just manage repeatedly to escape death thanks to Aaron’s butt-kicking prowess.
Behind the manhunt are government honchos played by Stacy Keach and Edward Norton, who get totally underused in this movie. This should be considered a crime, especially in Norton’s case because he is given little more to do than tensely pace around dim boardrooms and bark orders like, “I need all non-essential personnel out of the room!”
Where “Legacy” does manage to earn its stripes is in the action sequences, which are fewer and farther apart than in any previous Bourne movie (or maybe it only just felt that way).
Motorcycle chases, close-quarters fistfights, and high-tension shootouts all crackle with the “Bourne” seal of approval.
Rumors swirl about a potential Renner/Damon team-up in a future Bourne film, which could be interesting, especially if Greengrass returns.
If that happens, “The Bourne Legacy” may wind up being remembered as the New Coke of the “Bourne” franchise. It’s really not all that much different, but it’s likely to leave the public clamoring for Bourne Classic.
“The Bourne Legacy” is rated PG-13 for violence and action sequences.