The Bourne Legacy (2012)

How Many of Us Are There?

Today’s movie had arrived in theaters without me even knowing it, which is really strange because it’s the fourth movie in a series that I’ve loved so far.  I’m not entirely sure why I wasn’t paying attention.  It could have been because they changed the main actor, but I doubt it because I like the new actor just as much as I like the old one.  It could have also been because the movie didn’t look that good, but it’s probably not that because nothing that I had seen made me doubt it could live up to the other movies.  It also could have been that the movie looked like they were just trying to grab some more cash from the movie series.  I don’t really have a counter point to that one.  But, when I realized that the movie had been released, I set my sights on checking it out as soon as I could.  And that brings us up to speed and I can review the Bourne Legacy, based on a novel by Eric Van Lustbader, based on characters created by Robert Ludlum, written by Dan Gilroy, co-written and directed by Tony Gilroy, and starring Jeremy Renner, Rachel Weisz, Edward Norton, Stacy Keach, Joan Allen, David Strathairn, Albert Finney, Scott Glenn, Zeljko Ivanek, and Louis Ozawa Changchien.

Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner) is traversing an obstacle course through Alaska as a test of the effectiveness of Operation Outcome, a secret government operation to use chemicals to help the human body reach its physical and mental peak.  He eventually reaches a cabin to meet his contact, another Operation Outcome agent called Number Three (Oscar Isaac).  The fact that Operation Blackbriar and Treadstone were exposed by Jason Bourne in the previous movie leads to CIA operative Eric Byer (Edward Norton) to wise up for a few minutes and realize that these tests are not working out for the government, so he decides to scrap this version of the project and kill Aaron and everyone in the facility that provides the chemicals for them, including Dr. Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz), but she survives.  Aaron does as well, so he’s going to have to go and punch some faces to teach the government a lesson.  But the government will probably strike back with their other projects that they are completely confident will never turn against them like the other two.

This movie disappointed me with how thoroughly okay they were.  It wasn’t a bad movie, but the other three movies set a high bar for this movie and it never managed to reach that level.  I found myself starting to get annoyed that our government is apparently smart enough to develop these programs to make these super soldiers, but not smart enough to realize that it’s not working in their favor.  This is the fourth movie that should teach them that this is going to blow up in their face, but they’re all going to get the idea in their head that the others failed, but this time will be different.  I like to believe that the government would move on if the Manhattan Project blew up in their faces four times, killing everyone involved and making them look bad publically each time, but maybe that’s just me.  It felt in the early parts of the movie as if I should have gotten a discount because they seemed to delight in using scenes from the previous movies.  I understand tying the movies together, but at a certain point I just start thinking I would’ve been better off staying at home and watching the DVD’s that I already own.  But they slowed down with that soon enough in the movie that I wasn’t that annoyed.  I was a little annoyed by the ending, but mainly just because it was kind of quick and pretty lackluster, like they just ran out of steam and just slapped “The End” on it.

One of my favorite parts of the previous Bourne movies is the fact that their solid story was backed up by some badass action.  They decided that this movie needed to be too much subpar story and we could leave the action by the wayside for the bulk of the movie.  The first decent fight of the movie was an hour and a half in!  The bulk of the first part of the movie is people talking and reaching the conclusion that they should wipe out the project mixed in with scenes of Aaron Cross walking through snow.  You know what I don’t come to my Bourne movies to watch?  20 minutes of a psychologist session with Rachel Weisz talking about how she feels about Zeljko Ivanek shooting her coworkers.  Just after that is when they realize that the Bourne movies are supposed to be action flicks.  It was a good bit of fighting though and I was dying for it to happen by this point, even though it left me thoroughly confused about how a guy died from getting a table kicked into his head.  Unconscious, sure.  But dead?  That should take something more like a drill bit being fired out of a fire extinguisher.  There are one or two more good fights in the movie, but the action was spread out way too far for my taste and left me disappointed in the movie overall.  There was a spectacular motorcycle crash near the end of the movie that came out of nowhere and surprised the hell out of me, but it also annoyed me because I felt like it robbed us from a good fist fight that needed to happen.  The part where Aaron grinds the motorcycle down the handrail that you can see in the trailers was pretty sweet though.

I even took issues with the performances, even though they got a lot of great people that I really like to be in the movie.  I guess it’d be more accurate to say that I took issue with the characters because the performances themselves were solid.  Jeremy Renner is a great actor, and when I saw that he was taking the reins from Matt Damon I decided it was an acceptable substitution, but I didn’t really like this character or how it was portrayed.  Jason Bourne was a cool and collected badass; Aaron Cross is a pill addict who talks too much.  But Renner did a good job with the action, and he also played his less interesting character well.  Rachel Weisz did have to bust out the acting chops a little more often, like in the scene where we’re watching her debriefing with the psychologist, but I was too busy being angry that I was having to watch that scene to pay attention to how well she pulled it off.  She mainly had to be scared and run around as her performance, and she did it well.  I was a little confused about why her character lived in a haunted house, but it apparently wasn’t important.  And the ghosts never showed up.  Also the house was just old and looked haunted.  Edward Norton was in the movie, but surprised me by never really doing anything to make me pay attention to him.  That’s not usually his MO.

If the Bourne Legacy had a different title, I probably would have liked it more.  I would have definitely thought that it was a Bourne rip off, but it wouldn’t have had to live up to its predecessors and fall short.  The story was fairly typical for the Bourne series, full of stuff that shows us how untrustworthy and stupid our government is, but the action could not elevate this movie as it was able to in the previous movies because there just wasn’t enough of it.  The movie winds up being okay, but probably not good enough to inspire seeing it in theaters.  Good enough for a rental when it comes out though.  The Bourne Legacy gets “I wanna stop thinking” out of “I’ll get my bag.”

Let’s get these reviews more attention, people.  Post reviews on your webpages, tell your friends, do some of them crazy Pinterest nonsense.  Whatever you can do to help my reviews get more attention would be greatly appreciated.  You can also add me on FaceBook and Twitter.  Don’t forget to leave me some comments.  Your opinions and constructive criticisms are always appreciated.

American History X (1998)

Happy Birthday, Forty!

I decided, though it wasn’t officially requested, I would review a movie in celebration of the birth of my friend Forty.  One thing you must know about my friend Forty is that he’s a white supremacist, but it’s okay because he’s Mexican.  He’s an enigma.  And a racist.  So the movie I decided I should review is a movie he likes for the racism, but apparently ignores because it has an anti-racism message to it.  I think he just picks and chooses which parts he’s going to pay attention to.  But I’m going to pay attention to the entire thing as I present my review of American History X, written by David McKenna, directed by Tony Kaye, and starring Edward Norton, Edward Furlong, Avery Brooks, Stacy Keach, Beverly D’Angelo, William Russ, Guy Torry, Ethan Suplee, Fairuza Balk, and Jennifer Lien.

This is another one of those movies I don’t like reviewing because the story is told out of order, going back and forth between the present day and flashbacks.  I’ll try to work it out though.  A while before the movie proper starts, the firefighter father (William Russ) of Derek Vineyard (Edward Norton) is killed while trying to put out a fire in a drug house.  This leads to Derek turning to racism and join a neo-Nazi street gang called the D.O.C, led by Cameron Alexander (Stacy Keach).  While banging the bejesus out of his girlfriend Stacey (Fairuza Balk), Derek’s brother Danny (Edward Furlong) comes in to inform him that three black guys are breaking into Derek’s truck.  Derek shoots and kills one of them, wounds another, and the third escapes.  Derek then brutally kills the wounded black guy by curb stomping him.  Derek goes to jail for three years.  In jail he joins the Aryan Brotherhood, but leaves them a year later after finding that they have friendly dealings with a Mexican gang member.  For the insult, the brotherhood rapes him in the shower.  Derek befriends a black prisoner named Lamont (Guy Torry) and starts rehabilitating with the help of his black former English teacher Dr. Bob Sweeney (Avery Brooks).  While Derek is turning from racism, Danny is joining the DOC and writing reports on Mein Kampf.  I guess you could call this a sticky situation.

It probably wasn’t the greatest decision to review this movie.  Not because it’s a bad movie as it’s actually a very good movie.  I just think I’ll probably find it fairly difficult to say anything funny in relation to this movie.  At least not without becoming pretty damned offensive myself.  I’m not above being offensive though, so we’ll see what happens.  It’s a compelling and thought-provoking story, but I don’t feel like it’s really a pleasure to watch for pretty much any race.  Non-racist white people like myself feel a little embarrassed and guilty about the movie, but no one’s really portrayed in the best light.  While simultaneously making us realize that stereotypes are bad (mmmkay?), it’s also showing us a pretty good amount of people that are fitting those stereotypes.  When they mess up a grocery store because it hires illegal immigrants, it’s actually populated by illegal immigrants.  The guys breaking into Derek’s car are definitely black guys.  They’re also very good at basketball.  Of course, the white people are mostly unlikeable too.  Two of Derek’s family members are okay, and that’s about the entirety of the good white people in this movie until Derek and Danny turn to the lighter side of the force.  The movie is a riveting watch, but the subject matter keeps it from being something I really enjoy watching.  It’s all this racism and sides of humanity that I like to tell myself doesn’t exist, but I secretly know it does.  I don’t come across it very much as a white guy, but I’ve actually seen it alongside my dirty wetback friend Forty.  I remember one time we were at a gun show in town (the perfect meeting grounds for white trash) and a particularly white trashy lady asked him – with no noticeable sign of being intentionally racist – if he was an anchor baby.  I don’t remember the response Forty took, but I’d guess that he just admitted that he was and we went about our day.  I’ve gotten distracted.  Another thing that makes the movie not a pleasure to watch is the ending as it’s thoroughly depressing, and always made me wonder if Derek would return to racism after what happens.  The thing that is most responsible for me not finding this movie an enjoyable experience is the curb stomping scene.  Starting with the sound made by the teeth touching the curb, every part of that scene makes my skin crawl and upsets me.  But, again, this is still a really good movie that I respect, but I like my movies to be fun and this is far from that.

The thing that I think sells this movie the most is Edward Norton.  That guy’s amazing in this movie.  He really immerses himself in his roles and it works out phenomenally here.  I was particularly impressed by him physically in the movie.  In the flashback scenes when he was talking to the news station about his father, where he looked physically unimpressive.  Then we jump to the middle of his racist times where he’s friggin’ yoked.  Can’t say I was that impressed with Edward Furlong in this movie though.  He never did anything that I found impressive, and the times that he tried to do something emotional, I remained unconvinced.  Ethan Suplee was hilariously racist in this movie.  Though I would never sing it aloud in public, I actually remember that entire song he’s singing in his van about how the “white man marches on.”  His character in this movie is a stark contrast to another time where I’ve seen him, as he was innocently spending an entire movie trying to see a sailboat in a Magic Eye picture in Mallrats.  Also, you can see Fairuza Balk’s boobs in this movie.  I’m not entirely sure why, but I’ve always had a thing for her.  Something about her just does it for me.

American History X is a fantastic movie with an engaging story, thought-provoking moments, and a good message at the end.  But it’s also not something I’d call a pleasure to watch.  It’s depressing and full of people I like to think don’t actually exist.  But it’s a great movie that deserves to be watched, especially for Edward Norton’s fantastic performance.  I hope Forty enjoyed his birthday present, ‘cause I’m gonna go start cutting myself.  American History X gets “I’m the most dangerous man in this prison.  You know why?  ‘Cause I control the underwear” out of “Has anything you’ve done made your life better?”

My friend Forty would probably appreciate it if I pointed out that my comments about him being racist were done for the sake of comedy, and are only about 80% true.

Let’s get these reviews more attention, people.  Post reviews on your webpages, tell your friends, do some of them crazy Pinterest nonsense.  Whatever you can do to help my reviews get more attention would be greatly appreciated.  You can also add me on FaceBook and Twitter.  Don’t forget to leave me some comments.  Your opinions and constructive criticisms are always appreciated.