THE BOURNE LEGACY (Rated PG-13)
Matt Damon always demonstrated his best acting chops as the conflicted superspy Jason Bourne in an eponymous series of action thrillers that made him a true action hero for the ages.
It all started with “The Bourne Identity,” and the great thrills, including some of the most spectacular chase scenes ever filmed, continued through two equally impressive sequels.
Now along comes “The Bourne Legacy,” aptly named since Matt Damon’s presence is pretty much limited to a Wanted poster and a TV news bulletin designed to scare the general populace.
This much is sure: Damon’s rogue spy Bourne was always on the run, with shadowy government agents, mercenary operatives and other assorted riff-raff and bad guys in hot pursuit.
Often, it was hard to separate the good guys from the bad, but that seems to be a big part of the franchise’s appeal to the closeted secret agent in all of us action junkies.
“The Bourne Legacy” brings a new superhuman agent to the front lines of danger. Jeremy Renner’s Aaron Cross picks up the mantle of the operative who must go underground to save his skin and expose double-dealing.
We first see Cross half-naked in the freezing wilderness of Alaska, as he jumps into a lake to retrieve a canister filled with survival medicine necessary to his training mission.
Meanwhile, back in the nation’s capital, Admiral Mark Turso (Stacy Keach) and Colonel Eric Byer (Edward Norton) are in full damage control mode as Congress probes the existence of rogue spy operations in which they are complicit.
Suddenly, Cross and other operatives around the world that are members of something called The Program are targeted for elimination, only because their superiors decide to leave no evidence behind of their existence.
While battling the elements of Alaska and the hungry pack of vicious wolves, Cross ingenuously outflanks the drones that are programmed to blow him to smithereens.
It would be easy enough for Cross to go deep undercover, but he’s a chemically-enhanced agent who needs regular doses of pills to stay fit physically and mentally.
Even the scientists who developed the special medicine are put at risk, and Cross is able to locate Dr. Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz) just in time to extend her life expectancy.
Cross mistakenly believes that Dr. Shearing holds the key to turning up the needed pills, but in reality she tested his blood samples and had nothing to do with the making of pharmaceuticals.
However, the good doctor knows that there’s a way to get Cross off the medication, but it requires a trip to the Philippines where the chemicals are manufactured.
While Cross and Dr. Shearing try to stay in hiding until they can get out of the country, Colonel Byer and his crew are utilizing first-class technology to hunt down the rogue agent and the doctor.
The most suspenseful moments involve Cross using his ingenuity so that he and Dr. Shearing may elude the dogged colonel’s high-tech hot pursuit.
Not surprisingly, shortly after Cross and Dr. Shearing arrive in Manila, Byer has dispatched an army of assassins to take them out. Boy, does this guy mean business.
The chase scenes in Manila are brilliantly staged. First, there’s Cross skipping across rooftops and running up the sides of walls.
Then, there’s the street chase on foot and motorcycles. Cross and Dr. Shearing ride through city streets and jump over obstacles like Evel Knievel on steroids.
Oh, I forgot to mention there’s one key difference between Aaron Cross and fellow agent Jason Bourne. Cross knows his past and does not suffer from memory issues. At this point, maybe I need one of those blue (or is it green?) pills for enhanced mental skills.
However, I digress. “The Bourne Legacy” may not live up to the expectations of the previous installments, but it does stand alone as a decent entry into the canon of “Bourne” action thrillers.
It’s probably a safe bet to say that a fifth “Bourne” is on the way, but will Matt Damon return in some capacity more substantial than a fleeting glimpse? I am betting that Jeremy Renner will get ever more comfortable in his role.
DVD RELEASE UPDATE
Readers of this space probably know that I have a fondness for vintage detective dramas that had a good run on network television.
That’s why I can share with you my delight in the return of Robert Urich as the handsome, fun-loving Las Vegas private eye Dan Tanna, who lives in a converted warehouse.
“Vega$: The Third Season, Volume 2” is being released on DVD with 11 full episodes and no frills at all, unless you count the “episodic promos” included.
The sharp-eyed private eye tools around Sin City in his vintage red Thunderbird solving private cases, while also being on retainer to a wealthy casino owner (Tony Curtis).
Helping Tanna along the way is his smart and sexy assistant Bea (Phyllis Davis) and goofy legman Binzer (Bart Braverman). Greg Morris appears as Lt. Nelson, lending a hand when necessary.
After all these years, “Vega$” holds up better than a Royal Flush at a poker tournament. It’s a lot of fun.
Tim Riley writes film and television reviews for Lake County News.