By Dr. Craig D. Reid
Bourne free, as free as the sequels blow, as free as the character arc grows, Bourne to follow your orders. Live free and death surrounds you, your assassinations will astound you, each time you pull the trigger. Stay free, where all walls divide you, you’re free only if you fake dead, so there is a need to hide. Bourne free, and life is worth living, as revenge is worth giving, cause you’re Bourne free. Stay free, where all walls divide you, you’re free for a fourth movie so there’s no need to hide. Bourne free, you changed you’re name to Cross, you’ve got a new boss, cause you’re born with a price on your head. (Hopefully you get the musical rhythm of how to read this paragraph)
If I was to say Bourne Legacy is the best of the 4-film franchise, I’d be “lion,” it’s not “gr-r-reat,” but the “lynx” to the originals are smartly interspersed throughout the movie that the air of the production still rings fairly well as it’s an old story, with an old mission, with a new actor, a new director and very somewhat iffy new fight choreographer…who actually has no clue how to choreograph or shoot a fight scene.
This is the problem of me being a stuntman/fight choreographer in Chinese martial arts since 1979, I’ve seen it all, and know what’s good, bad, real, unreal, surreal and lamer than Tiny Tim from Charles Dickinson’s “A Christmas Carol.”
The film opens with a familiar thematic device, a man floating in a body of water, seemingly dead, seemingly out of touch only to snap to life but not into Matt Damon being picked up by a Russian fishing trawler but into the pug-nosed Jeremy Renner as Aaron Cross, a highly classified, DNA virus genetically enhance trained assassin emerging out of a cold…cold…cold body of water somewhere in the back wilderness mountains of nowhere Alaska in the middle of winter.
Yet all is not well in the life of the wolf-fighting, pill-popping Cross, as the director of the National Research Assay Group, Eric Byer (Edward Norton) fears for his career. Byer’s accountability is being destroyed by the mess Bourne created in the previous film. Solution? Kill all the members of his elite group, the best and most difficult to terminate is of course Cross.
Although the ensuing globe-trotting chase is not as exciting as five black basketball players from Harlem, Cross’ worldwide adventure has a fair amount of suspense, exposition on the science of how these assassins are created and about a combined 30 minutes of fights and chases to court our action palates and net a winning film.
The major differences between the four Bourne films is that Cross can only remain alive if he feasts on special green and blue pills, and he is also completely aware of his faculties, who he is, and what he needs to do to escape Byer’s boys and his drug addiction.
His plan involves finding, saving and running away with behavioral scientist, Dr. Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz), who seemingly was taking care of Cross during his behavioral ascension into the program, and now holds the key to his return to normalcy. However, this knowledge puts her at risk as Byer’s babes are out to make her simply go away.
We all quickly learn that you’d better not cross Cross, or he’ll get cross and cross you out.
Yet at the end of the day, Renner is no Damon, lacking the same screen presence, action fight capability and that X-factor some actors like Damon have, where you just want to cheer for the poor, lost and downtrodden dude.
The on foot, roof top, parkour-like and motor cycle chases are all as nail biting as many of Michael Phelps’ Olympic swimming moments during the 2012 London Olympics, the proverbial high-octane, roller coaster ride that are not wall-to-wall action but mostly all crammed into the climax of the film.
The less than two minutes of hand-to-hand combat are unfortunately more pathetic than NBC’s coverage of the same Olympic games, where we not only know the results of each event eight hours before the network dares to show them on TV but also the lame questions commentators ask to losing athletes how does it feel to lose. I mean, how do think they feel?
Damon’s fight performance in his Bourne bouts is filmed with more wide-angle shots and less editing points than Cross’ one technique, one shot, quick cut, snap editing sequences that don’t allow the audience to revel in the supposed superior hand-to-hand combat maneuvers that these assassins have. It’s like watching a tennis match where you only see the ball going over the net and don’t get to see the players actually doing anything.
However, the film does try to expand on the Bourne mythology and makes a concerted effort to even keep Jason Bourne’s character arc alive, in case from some crazy reason, Bourne and Cross might unite for some awesome final installment that might be entitled, Don’t Cross the New Bourne Baby.