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Jeremy Renner’s “Legacy”: A “Bourne” Loser?

August 11, 2012

I recently interviewed Peter Hedges, the writer-director of the upcoming Disney flick The Odd Life of Timothy Green, and he used a word I’d never heard before: “overcasting.” He was discussing how he’d landed such overqualified actors as Dianne Wiest, David Morse, Shohreh Aghdashloo and Rosemarie DeWitt for relatively small, uncomplicated roles. Well, now I know how to describe The Bourne Legacy: It’s the year’s most overcast movie.

The few reviews I read of the Robert Ludlum spy-franchise reboot complained about its talkiness, and in fact, it does seem at times to be an inaction flick; there aren’t any of the close-combat sequences that made the Matt Damon trilogy so thrilling until a good hour into the bloated 135-minute running time. Most of the action scenes, such as they are, involve drones. Unfortunately, so does most of the dialogue.

Tony Gilroy, who’s penned all the Bourne installments, segues into the director’s chair this time, succeeding Doug Liman and Paul Greengrass. He’s known for more conversational scripts like the scintillating Michael Clayton and the coma-inducing Duplicity, so it’s understandable that this fourth chapter would be heavier on chin-wagging than ass-kicking. But unlike in, say, Michael Clayton, the dialogue doesn’t reveal character. It merely cranks forward the gears of the overly mechanical plot.

Consider one of the film’s opening scenes: Scott Glenn and Stacy Keach—two of the most reliably solid character actors around—discuss how the top-secret superspy program that created Damon’s Jason Bourne, as well as Jeremy Renner’s Aaron Cross (who now becomes the centerpiece of the franchise), has gone awry. Says Keach to Glenn, “You’re the director of the Central Intelligence Agency of the United States of America!” Well, duh. He knows that. But the audience doesn’t, so Gilroy uses this cheap piece of exposition to establish the fact. Great performers like these deserve better. And they’re far from Legacy‘s only wasted resources.

No wonder Matt Damon decided to abandon the franchise. In recent years, he’s started to take on more challenging character roles, like the salty Texas Ranger in the Coen Bros.’ True Grit, a morally conflicted psychic in Clint Eastwood’s underrated Hereafter or Liberace’s lover in the upcoming HBO biopic Behind the Candelabra. (Let’s pretend like We Bought a Zoo and The Adjustment Bureau never happened.)

Sadly, Renner has been taking his career in the opposite direction. After his intense, Oscar-nominated turns in The Hurt Locker and The Town, he’s been cashing in with uncomplicated roles in action-jacked blockbusters like Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, The Avengers and now The Bourne Legacy. It’s surely a smart move for his bank account, but Renner looks increasingly bored, burnt out and emotionally bankrupt. And it’s unlikely his title role in the nightmarish-looking Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters (which was delayed until next year) will turn his frown upside down.

Weisz and Renner get lost in “Legacy”

At least his misery is in good company. Legacy also squanders an Oscar winner (The Constant Gardener‘s Rachel Weisz, as a scientist who inexplicably becomes Renner’s love interest), a two-time Oscar nominee (Primal Fear/American History X vet Edward Norton, as the one-dimensional bad guy trying to wipe out Renner and Weisz), a two-time Tony winner (Passion and The King and I‘s Donna Murphy, as Norton’s nondescript henchwoman) and an Emmy winner (Damages‘ Zeljko Ivanek, who’s limited to two scenes, one of which doesn’t even involve dialogue). Not to mention former Oscar nominees Albert Finney, Joan Allen and David Strathairn, whose meatier roles from earlier Bournes have been boiled down to glorified cameos.

With a stellar roster like this one, it’s a shame the movie’s such a snooze. This ain’t The Bourne Legacy—it’s The Borin’ Legacy.

How would you classify The Bourne Legacy—success or failure? Debrief us!

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4 Comments
  1. wackyindiankid permalink

    that is something i had expected coming from tony gilroy. But if you take out the Jason Bourne from the character there wont be the same excitement about the movie anymore.
    http://wackyindiankid.wordpress.com/2012/08/13/bourne/

  2. Ever since he slut-shamed Black Widow, I want nothing to do with Jeremy Renner. I guess never really liked him anyway, since I won’t see a Bourne movie without Matt Damon starring in it. But Renner? No way.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

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