Tony Gilroy‘s The Bourne Legacy is a respectable 7.5 compared to the 8.5 or 9 that is Paul Greengrass‘s Bourne Ultimatum. That’s definitely not a putdown as I felt fully engaged and occasionally revved by this fourth installment. I just wasn’t floored or super-throttled. It didn’t leave me breathless, but I wasn’t the least bit bored and I took no texting or bathroom breaks.
You can bitch if you want, but Legacy is what it is — a smart, cagey, nimble and well-crafted Bourne flick without Matt Damon but with the steely and severe and highly expressive Jeremy Renner. Which is well and good because Renner has become the guy with the presence — he has his own expressionistic attitude and energy force, and I don’t need Damon when he’s around.
But Gilroy is capable of much more than delivering a Bourne-eo follow-up to two Greengrasses and one Doug Liman. He’s a highly efficient helmer who knows from high-end coolness, and who lives in a refined and sophisticated realm, etc.. The comfort and excitement levels are considerable in Legacy, but I wanted something deeper, crazier, darker, stranger. Or more layered. Or dryer. Because Gilroy is Gilroy. He’s no sequel-izer bunny.
I would have liked Legacy more, in other words, if the Universal suits had poured cups of herbal tea and sat down at the conference table and said to Gilroy, “We know you’re much better than what we need, or what we think we want…we both know you’re much, much more than some razamatazz hack…so please, do something of your own…fuck the Matt Damon fanbase, fuck Paul Greengrass, fuck the revenues from the series so far….that was then, this is now…we need you to step out and give us a really smart thriller that fiddles with but doesn’t scrupulously follow the Bourne legend, and just…we’re not sure but something that settles down and gets real and maybe gives up some of that old Michael Clayton action. We’re trying to be wiser than just fools who chase income. We believe in you because you’re smarter than we are. We’re studio executives who will never know anything, ever. So take our money, go to town and make something that doesn’t necessarily kiss the ass of the three previous Bourne films.”
Instead, the Universal executives said to Gilroy, “Please go out and make us a movie that kisses the ass of the three previous Bourne films. We’re thinking strategically here, we don’t know any better and that’s what we want. We want to you to do this so that Bourne fans who don’t read reviews will pay to see it and buy popcorn in the bargain, and that way we can all make more money — you, your brother Dan, your editor brother John, Ron Meyer, all of us — and increase the value of Universal stock and also buy new cars and pay for college tuitions and take vacations in Belize and so on.”
Renner is not playing Jason Bourne but Aaron Cross, a stud-case operative for the CIA’s Treadstone/Operation Outcome who’s become a target after the program is “infected” by Jason Bourne’s arrival in Manhattan (yes, Legacy‘s first act overlaps with Ultimatum‘s third act) and CIA yuppie hard-ass Eric Byer (Edward Norton) declares that all the agents in the pool have to be eliminated. And so the chase is on and blah, blah. Except Renner needs “chems” to remain at peak performance levels, and that leads him to a genetic scientist (Rachel Weisz) who’s in charge of testing and developing said “chems,” etc. She too is on the hit list, and…I’m not going to run down the whole plot, or even half of it. I’m not a court stenographer. If you want to know what happens, buy a ticket.
Suffice that Legacy kicks in big-time during a shoot-out scene inside and near Weisz’s home, and it also kicks serious ass during a third-act scooter race in Manila. But honestly? Good as the Manila chase sequence is, it’s a little bit reminiscent of the Tangier chase sequence in Ultimatum. So Legacy doesn’t really feel like its own bird.
But it’s pretty good in many sections, and I wasn’t “disappointed.” I was like “yeah…this is good, I like it….I may not be doing cartwheels in the lobby but I have no real problems or issues. I’m not pissed off, I had a good time at the movies and yaddah-yaddah.” So I’m not being snide or dismissive. Legacy is somewhere between fine and better than okay. It’s just not earthshaking.