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Review: “The Bourne Legacy”

TONY GILROY IS a hell of a writer. One of the best action sequences in the Jason Bourne trilogy was a verbal battle between Brian Cox and Joan Allen. Certainly, it helps to have those actors, but Gilroy writes excellent dialogue that can fill 30 seconds — suited for the quick pace of the spy capers — or longer, more fluid scenes like his Oscar-nominated Michael Clayton script. The trouble with Gilroy, at least as far as The Bourne Legacy is concerned, is that his skills as a director are better left in the slow lane.

He takes over for Paul Greengrass, who kind of singlehandedly reinvented the action flick with Bourne 2 and 3, and the results are really uneven, although it’s a good enough starting point for (perhaps) another trilogy.

The story is pretty convoluted at first, involving the security agencies shutting down all of their pre-programmed spy operations at once in the wake of Jason Bourne taking Manhattan (the central action of The Bourne Ultimatum). So Gilroy has to pack a bunch of people and places in the first half-hour, and it’s a lot of crazy wind-up for a pitch that is essentially just a fastball.

Carrying on the ass-kicking tradition is Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner). He’s more street smart and less refined than Bourne, but his mission is the same: Live long enough to expose the dirty dealings of the intelligence community. He’s on the run with a doctor (Rachel Weisz) who knows how the lab rats like Aaron are behaviorally engineered. The last hour of the movie or more is just a long chase scene; it’s OK, but that doesn’t cut it in this franchise.

Spanning the globe and stretching a little longer than it needs to, The Bourne Legacy is just too cumbersome for Gilroy to move effectively, but it’s not a bad imitation of a Bourne film. COLIN BOYD