(director/writer: Tony Gilroy; screenwriters: story by Tony Gilroy/Dan Gilroy/inspired by thr “Bourne” series created by Robert Ludlum; cinematographer: Robert Elswit; editor: John Gilroy; music: James Newton Howard; cast: Jeremy Renner (Aaron Cross), Rachel Weisz (Dr. Marta Shearing), Edward Norton (Ret. Col. Eric Byer), Stacy Keach (Ret. Adm. Mark Turso), Oscar Isaac (Outcome #3), Joan Allen (Pam Landy), Albert Finney (Dr. Albert Hirsch), David Strathairn (Noah Vosen), Scott Glenn (Ezra Kramer), James Joseph O’Neil (Sterisyn-Morlanta Gateman), Dennis Boutsikaris (Terrence Ward); Runtime: 135; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: Frank Marshall/Patrick Crowley/Jeffrey M. Weiner/Ben Smith; Universal Pictures; 2012)

“The fourth installment of the successful Bourne series is the weakest.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The fourth installment of the successful Bourne series is the weakest, as it loses some emotional appeal without Matt Damon. In the hands of new director Tony Gilroy (“Michael Clayton”/”Duplicity”), who was screenwriter for the three other fresher and smarter ‘moral outrage’ episodes, the film covers familiar ground and provides no memorable thrills.The first Bourne was directed by Doug Liman and the other two by Paul Greengrass. This becomes a Bourne movie without Bourne, as Matt Damon takes a sabbatical (with his amnesiac character still on the run) and Jeremy Renner steps up to the plate as an adequate replacement, though without the social conscience feelings Damon gives to his questioning used character. Renner plays another of the nine Treadstone operatives of the immoral secret black-ops mission, that the CIA decides to shut down in fear of exposure when rogue agent Bourne is spotted in Manhattan and as a result the covert big shots try to wipe out all field agents and science lab participants involved in the unauthorized project.

The director wrote the screenplay with his brother Dan.

The pill-popping super-agent Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner) is targeted for removal by the shadowy and always snarling one-dimensional retired Col. Eric Byer (Jeremy Renner), head of CIA operations for the secret Operation Outcome, while in the snowy mountains of Alaska meeting a contact (Oscar Isaac) in a heavily armed cabin. But the crafty agent averts an unmanned drone attack and takes down in hand-to-hand combat a ferocious wolf, and after an Outcome scientist in a secret research lab in Bethesada goes psycho and kills himself and five colleagues the agent surprisingly and conveniently shows up in the hideaway country home of one of the Outcome genetic scientists, Dr. Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz), who survived the attack and for the past few years provided him with “viral” meds (such as genetically blue and green pills that turned him into a uber-agent), just in time to save her life from the ruthless Byer team of CIA assassins.

The muddled complex plot gets talked to death and offers some twists, while the back story never gets cleared up to make things lucid for the viewer who skipped the other Bourne films. The film lags when Byer and sinister co-conspirator retired Adm. Mark Turso (Stacy Keach) just talk officious gobbledygook, with the heartless Byer justifying his wretched illegal villainy by saying: “We are morally indefensible and absolutely necessary.”

Meanwhile Renner and Weisz team-up to dodge their assassins and get the agent drug-free from those controlling pills. While the pic has been globe-trotting to various locations around the world, such as Alaska, Chicago, New York, the D.C. environs, Seoul and Karachi, until it finally lands in Manilla. That is where the two innocents trek to while on the run from Byer’s intense manhunt, as it seemingly is the only place with a lab for the Doc to get the needed materials to work on the agent. The film becomes more watchable as it goes into full popcorn action film mode, with its centerpiece long extended motorcycle chase climax sequence through the streets of Manilla. It’s nicely done, but the franchise has lost most of its punch by overstaying its welcome and just giving us the same old, same old.