Can Jeremy Renner live up to Matt Damon's Bourne Legacy?

Aug 10, 2012

Critics are split on whether Renner's character Aaron Cross is a 'capable heir' or 'a self-serious drip'

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THE BOURNE franchise proved a great success for Universal Pictures, earning the studio an estimated $945m for the first three films starring Matt Damon. But can its latest instalment The Bourne Legacy prove a hit without Jason Bourne?

Rather than recasting a new Bourne after Matt Damon walked away from the films, writer and director Tony Gilroy has introduced a new main character called Aaron Cross, played by Jeremy Renner.

While Bourne's main concern was figuring out his true identity, Cross is a chemically augmented super-soldier obsessed with scoring a new supply of the drugs he has become dependent on. But critics are split on whether Renner can live up to Matt Damon's films.

Renner finds a fan in Peter Bradshaw at The Guardian who thinks the new star is "better than Matt Damon as a Bourne-y agent". Renner is "tougher and more grizzled-looking, more convincing as the professional soldier who has grown careworn and disillusioned in the public service," says Bradshaw. "I can imagine Renner going rogue, but I often had a tough job imagining smooth-faced Damon going rogue from the cub scouts."

The Wall Street Journal praises Renner for taking over the screen, and the franchise, with “unforced authority”. While USA Today says he offers a “strong performance and proves himself to be a capable heir”.

But others are pining for Damon. "The new movie continues the Bourne tradition of exciting, reality-based thrillers," says The New Yorker, "but when the series lost its star it lost most of its soul".

Hollywood seems determined to turn Renner into an action hero, writes Newsday, but "here he is once again a sullen, grim-faced figure who's too busy looking the part to show any emotion or a sense of humour”. It is “unclear” why Marta Shearing, Cross’s love interest, played by Rachel Weisz, would “fall for this self-serious drip, even if he did save her life”.

Hollywood Reporter blames the scriptwriting: "Gilroy has cheated his leading man out of a good part by providing scant back story, personality traits or motivation other than the most simplistic of saving his own skin and that of his companion."

But Patrick Smith at The Daily Telegraph concludes that the new film is simply “missing the magnetic charisma of Damon, which Renner, though watchable, can't hope to match".

"If this is Bourne's legacy,” writes Smith, “he should amend his will."

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