As Jason Bourne closes in on his identity in New York, an even shadier division of the US Secret Service decides to tidy up loose ends. However, experimental super-agent Aaron Cross (Renner) isnt so willing to be trashed.
Listen up, people. Treadstone was just the tip of the iceberg. This goes further than you can possibly imagine. Shit has metastasised. And further words to that effect, eloquently discharged by a fulminating Edward Norton in the role of decent-actor-at-headquarters-scowling-at-computer-screens. The Bourne Legacy, with erstwhile Bourne-scribe Tony Gilroy replacing the (as swiftly becomes apparent) irreplaceable Paul Greengrass as director, and Jeremy Renner imitating the (just as obviously) inimitable Matt Damon, certainly does what is expected of it. We’ll dash about the globe with our persecuted spy, trashing places in fevered vérité, while the suits lock horns back home. But this sideways-sequel is so ham-fisted, so constipated with gravid exposition, you’ll be dashing home to weep hot, bitter, Damonless tears over your Bourne box set. We’re in a Bond movie and stuck with 006.
Renner, already facing the uphill task of not being Damon, finds no sure ground for his character. He can do the physical stuff, but his deadpan keeps slipping into a sneer. We’re unsure we even want him saved. Renner is at his best with a faint note of sarcasm; Damon’s flickers of existential crisis are beyond him.
You can partly blame the script. Rather than shackled with memory loss, Cross is a military-grade junkie — he and fellow ‘Outcome’ agents are hooked on “chems”. Blue and green pills that boost healing and intelligence like videogame power-ups. Sound familiar? It’s the crazy “headache” subplot from The Bourne Identity Greengrass sensibly jettisoned. As explained by mires of virus-related gobbledyspeak, Cross and less adept black ops miseries are nigh-on bioengineered X-Men. And Renner plaintively informs us that if he doesn’t get some blues quick, he’s in grave danger of going full retard. Which, frankly, is spoof-grade blarney.
As a scientist who knows too much and hooks up with our hero, Rachel Weisz at least contributes some emotional gusto, running the gamut from sobbing wreck to nervy sidekick to (potential) love interest, but she is basically there to cling to the back of a motorcycle.
The original Bourne trilogy, fast resembling neo-espionage classics, was set within sight of the real world — we felt the heft and hardship of the action. For all the whip-pans and juddering momentum, Greengrass convinced us of the gravity-defying leap from roof to window, or the terrifying brunt of an incoming Trabant. When we finally get to the action, Gilroy does nothing honestly. As Cross plunges between vertical walls, the view cuts away before he lands. As he slews a motorbike down a stone partition, our sight is obscured. Essential Bourne-thrills reduced to the shredded facsimile of a master-craftsman. Being kind, you might say Legacy lacks its own identity. The reality is, this shit really has metastasised. Cue: Moby.
As earnestly as they have tried to continue the formerly excellent spy series, everything Gilroy and crew concoct only serves to mock the excellence and passion with which Greengrass delivered his films.