Jason Bourne

Director: Paul Greengrass (2016) BBFC cert 12A

Matt Damon returns to the action treadmill for a fourth outing as the amnesiac assassin in this flat fifth episode of the franchise.

He was already an Oscar winning star when he powered 2002’s The Bourne Identity to usher in a new wave of inventively violent thrillers grounded in the real world.

Here references to whistleblower Edward Snowden and wikileaks sit beside a social media entrepreneur and European democratic protests.

The impact on cinema was to invigorate the competition and in 2006 Daniel Craig duly wowed the world as a gritty James Bond in Casino Royale.

So it’s curious at a time when Craig is supposedly stepping out of 007’s tux, the 45 year old Damon is jumping back into the fray.

He’s in tremendous physical shape and grimly charismatic but there is a sense of what was once the future is now past its best.

The plot reheats the familiar routine of global games of violent cat and mouse. Tommy Lee Jones is the grizzled new CIA director wanting Bourne dead and Alicia Vikander is his ambitious analyst who has murky motives for helping our hero. There’s even a new black ops programme named Ironhand in the works.

Fundamentally the story is of the CIA engaging a huge amount of time and resources to pursue a vendetta against its own former operatives in order to protect what we must laughably call its good name.

This leaves the audience as bemused bystanders to a purely internal affair with no investment in the outcome.

There is no sex, romance, drugs, booze or even coffee in the life of the humourless and puritan patriot, making Bourne difficult to root for.

Previously uncovered secrets of Bourne’s personal history are uncovered to jumpstart the plot. It’s a desperate move reminiscent of Charles Bronson’s Deathwish (1974-1994) series which went to increasingly ludicrous lengths to find new family and friends to sacrifice in order the vigilante could once more shoot bad guys with impunity.

Greengrass gives the action some impact and the stunt crew earn their bonus. Athens stages a brilliant riot but by the time Bourne is gambling his life on the streets of Las Vegas, I’d forgotten why I ever cared.

@ChrisHunneysett

 

 

Criminal

Director: Ariel Vromen (2016)

What isn’t extraordinarily stupid in this brain dead thriller is astonishingly misjudged or alarming dull.

It’s a grey spongey mess of ageing stars, woeful dialogue, cheap looking stunts and preposterous plotting.

Gary Oldman and Tommy Lee Jones play CIA bosses who need to recover the memory of  of a murdered agent to locate a computer hacker who is selling nuclear codes to the Russians.

So using untested technology, they implant the dead agents memories into the mind of an emotionless killer, played by  grunting Kevin Costner.

Developing a conscience and language skills as a result of the operation, he goes off mission and pursues a creepy Patrick Swayze ‘Ghost’ style romance, giving a new meaning to the word spook.

Meanwhile Spanish anarchists try to muscle in on the nuclear action. There is expensive London location work and the screen is busy with military hardware.

It all goes Alan Partridge Alpha Papa (2013) as Costner evades a squad of police cars in an ambulance.

Various Brits bystanders are beaten up for comic effect. Plus there is a cut price reprise of Schwarzenegger in Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991) when Costner steals a sandwich, a beanie hat and a van.

Fresh from playing Wonder Woman in Batman Vs Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016), Gal Gadot chats about her lingerie, parades on the beach and is tied to her bed.

Flush with success from his mega smash Deadpool (2016), Ryan Reynolds appears briefly at the beginning but is curiously underplayed on the advertising.

Antje Traue is an incompetent leather clad assassin called Elsa and while it’s great to see Alice Eve on screen, she needs to have serious words with her agent about this non-role.

The uncertain tone, scattergun editing and woeful storytelling hint at heavy handed interference in production. Costner’s performance seems out of control. There a host of executive producers credited.

Just when you start considering the value of your own lobotomy, TV host Piers Morgan appears as himself to convince you there’s always a more suitable candidate.