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A franchise re-Bourne'

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Series tries to move forward with new star, story

The 'Bourne' franchise has been incredibly popular over the past decade. All three films have managed to be both commercial and critical hits nine figure box office takes don't combine with rave reviews all that often. Matt Damon's Jason Bourne (loosely based on the novels struck a chord. He was a hero that matched up well with the uncertain, gray-area-laden mood of the first few years of the 21st century.

However, Damon's Jason Bourne days appear to be behind him; he's moving on to other things. But the Bourne brand is still viable; there are a lot of parts to that universe that have yet to be explored.

So what do you do when your star runs out of steam before your franchise? Simple. You follow the James Bond formula hire a new guy and cross your fingers.

In 'The Bourne Legacy,' the new face of the franchise the George Lazenby following Sean Connery, if you will is Jeremy Renner. Renner's got the action-hero bona fides; his last two films were 'The Avengers' and the fourth 'Mission Impossible' movie. He's an Oscar-nominated talent who fits in a blockbuster. He's an ideal candidate to assume the mantle of this franchise.

Of course, Lazenby was a great Bond candidateand he lasted exactly one film.

'The Bourne Legacy' takes place in the aftermath of 'The Bourne Ultimatum.' Jason Bourne is still on the loose and a whistleblower is preparing to reveal the whole truth about the Treadstone Project, which will in turn jeopardize other covert, black ops projects.

One such project is Operation Outcome, which uses a combination of top-secret drugs to enhance the physical capabilities of its subjects including Aaron Cross (Renner). Refusing to risk discovery of their clandestine activities, CIA operative Eric Byer (Edward Norton; 'Moonrise Kingdom') orders the entire project destroyed.

Before long, the only Outcome participants remaining alive are Cross and Dr. Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz; 'Dream House'), the only member of the project's lab team to survive. The two are thrust together and go on the run, seeking desperately for some way to stay alive.

Maybe it's not fair to make the Bond comparisons - Renner isn't playing Jason Bourne, just a similar character in the same universe but the analogy feels apt, if not 100% accurate. And Renner (who really is a marvelous actor) gives us everything he's got in 'Legacy.' Cross is essentially a superhero, but Renner manages to humanize him. If there's such a thing as quiet subtlety in an action movie, Renner brings it.

The rest of the cast is excellent as well. Norton somehow manages to inject a weird excitement into his scenes despite the fact that they almost exclusively happen around desks and in conference rooms. Weisz gives good 'deer in the headlights,' which is all the script really asks of her. Stacy Keach ('The Great Chameleon'), Scott Glenn ('The Paperboy') and Dennis Boutsikaris (TV's 'Shameless') all do good work as well.

However, the performances can't quite turn things around for this movie. The film spends a lot of time establishing itself within the universe of the previous installments; that's important, but maybe not 'entire first hour of the movie' important. And much of that time is spent huddled in offices, working in laboratories and holding meetings around conference tables not exactly riveting stuff. Building the conspiracy is important, but it results in an awfully talky first half. Once the action sequences start, the movie kicks into gear; we still have the behind-the-scenes conspiracy stuff, but we also have fistfights, gunplay and chase scenes.

It's clear that screenwriter Tony Gilroy who also directed this film, as well as penning the scripts for the previous three 'Bourne' movies went exposition-heavy in order to establish this new character and develop a storyline that will both separate from and invoke the memory of Jason Bourne.

It's a pretty good film; the pace is a little slow and some of the plot developments seem a bit absurd after the fact, but it's good. However, we'll have to wait to see the box office returns before we know if Bourne will become another Bond or just another franchise that jumped the shark.

3 out of 5

Last modified on Thursday, 30 August 2012 09:16

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