Movie review: ‘Jason Bourne’ all about the paycheck
We’ve had “The Bourne Identity,” “The Bourne Supremacy,” “The Bourne Ultimatum,” “The Bourne Legacy” and now “The Bourne Paycheck.” It’s actually called “Jason Bourne,” but make no mistake, this wholly unnecessary reunion between star Matt Damon and the franchise’s star director, Paul Greengrass, is all about the Benjamins. If it weren’t, this headache-inducing cacophony of hot lead and twisted metal would possess an actual reason to exist.
It fails spectacularly on every level, from the moribund script to the lackadaisical acting to schizophrenic editing that’s so fixated on quick cuts it’s impossible to follow what’s going on in the overdone, overlong action scenes comprising roughly 90 percent of the film. Adding to the confusion is Greengrass’ dislike of dialogue and character development. It’s all about feeling the noise. And, boy, does it do a number on the eyes and ears.
Conspicuously missing is Tony Gilroy, who penned the first four entries in the series. These are his characters, and without him seeing their journeys through, it makes this installment feel like an outlier. Replacing him are Greengrass and Christopher Rouse, the director’s longtime editor who decided to give writing a whirl. No wonder the film feels more like a constantly-blinking strobe light than an actual entertainment. The pair proves incapable of replicating the nuance and inner-conflict that made Jason Bourne such a compelling character. Here, he’s pretty much a cipher, seldom acting as much as reacting to the turmoil surrounding his being a brainwashed pawn in a nefarious CIA scheme.
They really never give Damon anything to work with emotionally. It’s all physical, which the actor handles well, still looking youthful and fit at age 46. He’s convincingly buff in his opening scenes when we find him prostituting himself as an ultimate fighter punching out people for cash in refugee camps.
As before, he’s still having memory problems, but old pal Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles) has hacked into the infamous Treadstone program and discovered something new about Jason’s father, Richard Webb (Gregg Henry), whom he assumed died in a Beirut terrorist attack. She rushes to Greece to pass him the info. Little do they know ruthless CIA director Robert Dewey (a comically bad Tommy Lee Jones) and his fresh-faced, ladder-climbing flunky, Heather Lee (fellow Oscar-winner Alicia Vikander), are on to her and plan to use their rendezvous as an opportunity to put both down with an assist from an assassin known only as Asset (a wasted Vincent Cassel).
The operation, which we watch drag on for what seems like forever, fails to go as planned, sending Bourne back out on his mission to eliminate all who had a hand in his brainwashing. Like before, this leads to copious globetrotting, with stops in Greece, London, Washington and ultimately, Las Vegas, where a climactic car chase proves not just ridiculously over the top, it has the misfortune of approximating the Bastille Day massacre in Nice, France. At least this time it’s cars instead of people, but still can’t help summoning comparisons.
That the action scenes are so lame and derivative is shocking considering Greengrass’ record of taking our breath away in thrillers such as “United 93,” “Captain Phillips” and the second and third “Bourne” movies. Here, he’s going through the motions, just throwing stuff at the screen knowing he and his backers will reap millions even if his film stinks, which it does. Most disappointing are the performances by heavyweights like Damon, Jones and Vikander, all of whom seem to be sleepwalking. Only “Nightcrawler’s” Riz Ahmed displays any semblance of a pulse as a Zuckerberg-like tech genius helping the CIA spy on U.S. citizens through his new social media platform that ironically promises absolute privacy.
The elusion to Edward Snowden (whose name is dropped a time or two) is obviously Greengrass’ desperate attempt to make his film seem relevant and real. But how can he expect us to take him seriously when “Jason Bourne” promotes the idea that killing dozens of innocents should be accepted as mere collateral damage in justifying the bigger goal of keeping Bourne alive long enough to milk these now mindless shoot-’em ups for all the money they can.
— Dana Barbuto may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @dbarbuto_Ledger.
Cast includes Matt Damon, Tommy Lee Jones and Alicia Vikander.
(PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, brief strong language)