In the Bourne Identity/Supremacy/Ultimatum action franchise, Jason Bourne — the loner, badass rogue spy played by Matt Damon — became one of America's most beloved anti-heroes. The franchise's latest installment, The Bourne Legacy, riskily goes Damon-less. Instead Jeremy Renner (The Hurt Locker, The Avengers) stars as Aaron Cross, another superspy/laboratory experiment fending off a government agency that's out to kill him. While the studio's promotion department has been hammering home the tagline, "There was never just one," to ease skeptical fans into the Bourne-Cross substitution, some critics say that a Bourne movie without Damon is like a table without legs. Can Renner possibly fill the void?
No. The whole movie feels ersatz and expedient: "When are solid action, good actors, and only a semi-idiotic plot not good enough for summer-movie escapism?" asks Peter Travers at Rolling Stone. When the producers have bashed on without an essential ingredient — Damon — just to make sure "a profitable series keeps laying golden box-office eggs." Renner plays a collection of "tics" capably enough, and shoot outs and car chases are thrillingly staged, but "it's all sound and fury signifying nothing except a desperate need to feed a franchise."
"The Bourne Legacy"
Renner is better than Damon: In interviews promoting the movie, Renner has said he's not replacing Matt Damon, says Ramin Setoodeh at The Daily Beast, which is "so untrue." And I, for one, am glad: "Matt Damon was looking kind of weary in the last Bourne movie, which felt more like a long nap." This time round, the plot is ridiculous, but it doesn't matter. Renner, 41 but looking 10 years younger, is fantastic, "with all the charisma of a headlining stripper from Magic Mike" and impressive fake-fighting skills. Thank god he's finally getting the spotlight he deserves.
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Renner is good, but the movie is a mess: Renner and co-star Rachel Weisz are the just about the only part of The Bourne Legacy that actually work, says Alison Willmore at Movieline. But it seems like the two actors "should somehow be salvaged and put into their own potentially more standard action movie." Legacy just feels "hampered by its own franchise" because "the shoehorned-in scenes in which David Strathairn, Joan Allen, Albert Finney, and others continue their covert agency cold wars" are "once removed" from the current protagonist.
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Bottom line: Renner isn't the real problem — the studio should have known when enough is enough.