Change of director, lead actor offer different pace to action flick

Universal Picture’s “The Bourne Legacy” won’t be quite as filling for huge fans of the original Bourne trilogy if they’re hoping for something to satisfy the hunger left after the final installment in 2007.

The film follows new protagonist Aaron Cross, played by Jeremy Renner, whose fate has been sealed in the crossfire generated from the legal measures taken by Pam Landy at the end of “The Bourne Ultimatum.”

As it turns out, Treadstone was not the only CIA program experimenting with behavioral modification — “Legacy” follows another called Outcome, one that is possibly even more radical.

Cross, a protocol of Outcome, must endure the consequences of the quick cover-up attempt made by man-in-charge Eric Byer, played by Edward Norton, in light of the public scandal. He enlists the help of Rachel Weisz’s character Dr. Marta Shearing in a plot to help fully undergo the program’s intended transformation.

The beginning of Cross’ story unfolds concurrently with the final events of the third one, providing an interesting context and playing on the idea that there’s always more going on than what appears. It even pays homage to the first shot in “The Bourne Identity” in its opening scene. And that ending song that always signals the pan-out from the final scene? Definitely there and definitely still great.

Cross is a current participant in Outcome rather than one trying to escape its effects. He lacks the same empathy factor as Bourne, and his main motive seems unconvincing and somewhat selfish. Renner has the same rugged handsomeness as Matt Damon, but his deliverance is a bit weak at several points and viewers may find themselves much less drawn to his story.

Norton does a notable job portraying the cold, stop-at-nothing Byer and appears physically worn out to match his character’s stress level. Weisz has one of the strongest performances and especially stands out during one of the film’s most intense scenes involving a shooting.

The acting is not what is problematic.

The script, however, is fluffy with a lot of unnecessary dialogue and isn’t as biting and rapid-fire overall as the first three, which is surprising because Tony Gilroy, the same writer, penned it.

It also starts off slow and doesn’t feel like a true Bourne movie until about one-third of the way through. The plot development is necessary and ultimately appreciated, but will probably only confuse and distract viewers as it develops.

While there are plenty of interesting aspects to the plot, there are times where the film doesn’t seem to know where it wants to go. A stronger emphasis on Weisz’s character comes off as somewhat out of place in a series that has always dedicated more focus to the leading male — not to say that hers was uninteresting, but it’s just further evidence that Cross’ conflict lacks the plot-driving ability that Bourne’s effortlessly had.

There was much less confrontation and more hiding and waiting for things to happen as well. Even when the combat scenes begin to pop up, they’re less impressive and pretty quick to finish.

The switch of directors from Paul Greengrass to Tony Gilroy doesn’t go unnoticed either.

The chase scenes lack the same ferocity found in the second and third installments (although the final and only motorcycle chase scene does hold its own in many ways). The fight scenes also aren’t as well conducted. Ultimately, they leave viewers wanting more.

As a spy-action movie standing on its own, “The Bourne Legacy” is a solid film with room for improvement. Considering that it bears a title that will forever attach it to what some consider one of the best trilogies, it can’t quite reach the bar that’s been set.

“The Bourne Legacy” premiered Friday and is currently in theaters now.

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