Somewhere in the cluttered, needlessly convoluted mess of The Bourne Legacy is a kick-ass action movie. Unfortunately, the film spends too much time explaining what's happening rather than showing us -- and the result is often confusion, or even worse, boredom.

If you're a master at suspending disbelief, then you might enjoy The Bourne Legacy more than I did. Yes, I'm aware that Jason Bourne Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner) is supposed to be genetically modified and thus capable of surviving intense physical injury and other calamities, but I didn't realize this chromosomal superiority spread to inanimate objects like Manila street cycles. Seriously, if a Volvo survived through that many crashes, flips and tricks, I'd be shocked. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

The film starts off in the remote Alaskan wilderness, where we see Cross enduring what he deems a "scavenger hunt," but is, in actuality, some sort of training course for superspies. Here we see his abilities on full display: he can jump from mountain to mountain, he has amazing prowess with a rifle and man, can he ever set a trap with a tree. He manages to escape assassination by a drone airplane (in one of the movie's better scenes), but we still aren't sure who -- or what company -- sent the drone to kill him. But don't worry; Cross steals a plane and flies to civilization to find out.

This is when we meet some of the (many) other players of The Bourne Legacy, including, most notably, Dr. Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz), a scientist who specializes in genetics, virology and Cross himself, and retired Colonel Eric Byer (Edward Norton), who pursues Cross with the utmost urgency. The rest of the characters are distinctly one-note and almost instantly forgettable, and they dally around on the fringes of the film barking orders or taking them -- either way, inconsequential. The three top-billed actors all hold their own, but each of them are underused and seem a bit sleepy.

I'll admit flat-out that I don't know all the intricacies of the Bourne universe, but I know enough to say I saw the previous movies, and they were rapid-fire, pulse-racing films that delivered on the action promise. Where The Bourne Legacy falters is in its exposition; director Tony Gilroy feels the need to explain everything (perhaps it is necessary, in a way), but it's done poorly. Ever get a bunch of different information and names thrown at you in a very short period of time, and then you're expected to recount them? That's what it feels like watching this movie. At some point I decided to block out any of the plot and just wait for the action, because honestly, all the talk of chems and antidotes and "viraling out" just made no sense. Eventually, blacked-out documents with vague company letterheads all start to look the same. Who's who? Who cares?

Eventually the plot moves us around the world to the Philippines, where the action really starts to pick up -- about an hour too late. The final 45 minutes of the film are a payback for its first half, and we finally get to see Cross and Dr. Shearing in engaging fights and rooftop/road chases, rather than watching them bicker in a car or debate the morality of genetic manipulation. If only the entire film had the pace of the climactic chase scene, which is one for the books.

But even when things get better, The Bourne Legacy still feels tacked together. The last-minute introduction of a totally arbitrary character is the most blatant plot Band-Aid I've seen at the movies this year (and I've seen Battleship!). I won't reveal the ending here, but wow, whoever chose the closing song should be fired. In retrospect, however, it was the perfect closer -- about as underwhelming and disappointing as the film itself.

The Bourne Legacy Movie Poster
The Bourne Legacy
Based on 42 critics

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