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The Independent Critic

Jeremy Renner, Rachel Weisz, Edward Norton, Albert Finney, David Strathairn, Dennis Boutsikaris, Stacy Keach, Zeljko Ivanek
Tony Gilroy
Tony Gilroy, Dan Gilroy, Robert Ludlum (Inspiration)
Rated PG-13
135 Mins.
Universal Pictures
Feature Commentary
with Director/Co-Writer Tony Gilroy, Co-Writer Dan Gilroy, Editor John Gilroy, Director of Photography Robert Elswit, Second Unit Director Dan Bradley and Production Designer Kevin Thompson;Deleted Scenes
Re-Bourne;Capturing Chaos: The Motorbike Chase;Enter Aaron Cross;Crossing Continents: Legacy on Location;Man vs. Wolf;Wolf Sequence Test;Moving Targets: Aaron and Marta;My Scenes;D-BOX
BD-Live;pocket BLU App

 "The Bourne Legacy" Doesn't Quite Measure Up 
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In their bid to turn Jeremy Renner into a household name, the big wigs in Hollywood seem to have forgotten one crucial fact - Jeremy Renner can act.

After toiling around the indie world for several years, Renner's Oscar win for The Hurt Locker seems to have made Hollywood take notice of the actor. Unfortunately, it seems to have happened in all the wrong ways as evidenced by Renner's solid but fairly straightforward appearance in The Bourne Legacy. If you're a fan of the Bourne films, then you're likely already aware that Renner takes over the lead role from Matt Damon, whose three film appearances as Jason Bourne created one of the past decade's more memorable action heroes. There's no such lasting impact here, with Renner showing up not a Bourne but as another super agent, Aaron Cross, who is introduced to us in a semi-captivating but way too lengthy sequence in harsh Alaska with our new super agent fighting the elements, wolves, more elements, more wolves and, of course, his own government.

The script, inspired by but certainly not based upon Robert Ludlum's writings, was haphazardly constructed by director Tony Gilroy and his brother Dan. While Tony Gilroy has proven before that he can construct characters and develop politican intrigue (think Michael Clayton), he's got a ways to go before he becomes one of Hollywood's go-to directors for high-budget action flicks. While The Bourne Legacy is never awful and will likely entertain those needing an action flick on its opening weekend, the film is a clunky, poorly paced, overly long and excessively wordy film in which Renner's Cross starts off as a rather interesting character before shifting about 1/3 of the way through the film into a rather stoic and uninteresting chap who could have been just as easily played by Steven Seagal.

Okay, maybe I'm exaggerating a bit.

There's an extended scene (Actually, most of the scenes are extended) early in the film which serves up a rather flimsy excuse for The Program's head honchos, including Edward Norton, Stacy Keach, Albert Finney and Scott Glenn, to make the decision to abruptly shut down The Program by any means necessary. Of course, this means the sudden and silent annihilation of The Program's agents by a means that reverses a medication cycle all the agents are on that helps them maintain physical well being despite the intense demands of their roles.

If you're already confused, it gets worse.

Whereas previous director Paul Greengrass tended to promote a chaotic atmosphere through hand-held camera work and rambunctious visuals, Gilroy tends to focus upon the intensity of language and the interplay between characters. A good amount of the action takes place in a Manhattan area command center where The Program's leaders gather together hunched over large monitors and seemingly plot rather psychotic excuses for mass murder in the name of national security.

It would be absurd if it didn't sound all too familiar.

There are a couple action sequences really worth watching, most notably one in an isolated farmhouse where Dr. Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz) has secluded herself following a traumatic shooting at her lab that claimed the lives of several of her co-workers. The scene is well played out, suspenseful and nicely choreographed, which is something that can't be said for the vast majority of the action sequences in the film. Of course, it goes without saying that Cross and Dr. Shearing will end up pairing up to try to go whupass against the American government or at least try to survive.

Weisz is actually paired fairly nicely with Renner, with both actors having a bit of a stoicism about themselves that adds just the right amount of chemistry and suspense. While there's really nothing that happens that isn't textbook action flick, Weisz and Renner both work together to make this film quite a bit better than it would have been otherwise.

Norton makes a rather delicious baddie, exuding the sort of political smoothness that we see often in the media these days as he justifies his increasingly horrific actions behind some vague notion of protecting national security. Zeljko Ivanek is memorable in one particularly powerful scene, while a number of bigger names make relatively brief appearances such as Joan Allen, Paddy Considine and David Strathairn. While their roles are mostly irrelevant, Gilroy was wise to cast substantial actors in them because it maintains the film's intensity when the camera turns away from Renner and Weisz.

D.P. Robert Elswit's camera work is basically fine, though the film's fight choreography is a chaotic mess that often leaves extended sequences feeling confusing and overly long. The perfect example is the film's climactic scene, a promising chase scene through Manila that had all the makings of a classic thrilling chase, but quickly becomes a ho-hum exercise in weak blocking and editing.

James Newton Howard's original music is fine, though a bit more cliche'd than one might expect from the acclaimed composer, while Kevin Thompson's production design does lend the film a nice amount of suspense in its variety of locales.

The Bourne Legacy lacks the excitement and energy of the first three Bourne films, which were all penned by Gilroy. So, this let's us know that Gilroy can certainly pen an exciting and action-packed film. Apparently, he simply can't direct one.

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic