Saturday, August 11, 2012

Reel To Reel: The Bourne Legacy

Somebody get this man a compounding pharmacy!

Going Rate: Worth matinee price
Starring: Jeremy Renner, Rachel Weisz, Edward Norton, Stacy Keach
Rated: PG-13
Red Flags: Action violence, language

Universal Pictures thinks there's enough in the tank for a fourth Bourne picture, with or without Matt Damon. It's certainly doable, given the infrastructure created by Robert Ludlum's books. But a Bourne movie without Bourne like a James Bond film without James Bond, or George Lazemby as 007, and we saw how that turned out.

No matter. It turns out the super-secret assassin operation known as Treadstone has churned out several dark operatives, including Aaron Cross (Renner). When we meet him, he's in survival training and on some sort of meds -- this combination of green and blue pills he calls "chems," which do something to enhance his skills. We're never sure what. He's no Jason Bourne, but he's getting there. What he does to a wolf will remind you of what it's like to give a dog heartworm medication.

Halfway around the world, the spook bosses are nervous and cloistered in dimly-lit rooms because they're losing institutional control. People on the outside are talking -- and they can read it in their wiretaps -- about Bourne and Treadstone and all these things that probably aren't legal, much less Constitutional. They decide to shut things down, which in super-spook parlance means killing a lot of people, including Cross.

Out in the snowy abyss, Cross is running low on pills-- excuse me, chems. It turns out they come from this government pharmacological enterprise where one scientist doesn't know what the other is doing. Every so often, Dr. Marta Shearing (Weisz) draws blood work on spooks, presumably to examine the effects of said chems. She's unaware of how deep she's in the swamp until an outburst of violence at the lab ultimately leads Cross her way. His bosses are running him down, and he's still looking for pills.

All through the film, we see ghosts of Bourne. He's mentioned here, he's there, they're talking about him on MSNBC. It's almost as if the film wished it had Matt Damon again.

The Bourne Legacy left me scratching my head at how a group of intelligence chiefs could have so much information and yet be so clueless. I kept wondering when somebody in the room full of monitors, computers and phones would speak up and say, "Hey, shouldn't we maybe just lay off this guy for awhile and catch him off guard?" But movie spooks don't think that way. Neither do action movies.

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