Sly and co are back again to kick ass and take names, or more precisely, shot hordes of faceless bad guys in the splatter of CGI blood. Every one is back this time round, with more Bruce (Willis) and Arnie (Schwarzenegger) and less Jet (Li). With a new young recruit Billy the Kid (Liam Hemsworth) and CIA agent Maggie Chan (Yu Nan) in tow, the gang head to Albania to retrieve something of importance… blah blah… Not that the plot matters in anyway, all that matters is Stallone and the gang, run around and fire big guns and make wise cracks about how long in the tooth they all are. Joining in on the fun is Van (the man) Damn, after turning down a role in the first installment. Jean-Claude gets to twiddle his mustache as the villain called Vilain (get it) and has fun playing the antagonist, channelling an evil Bono (sunglasses on at all times). It’s a shame he doesn’t stick around much, as it’s a change of the hero roles that he usefully plays and it suits him well. Everyone feels under used in The Expandables 2 favor of Arnold, Stallone, Willis and (recently added) Chuck Norris, to quip each others Catchphrases at each other. Crews and Couture barley get a look in, and Dolph gets to have a little fun but much, other than make uncomfortable advances at Nan as she looks all gooey eyed at Stallone.
The joy of the first installment, was seeing all these iconic though guys fighting each other side by side and was gratuitous fun. However this time round, there is only two squire off’s, while every single 80’s action star, turns up to shoot things while patting each other on the back. As irrelevant as the story is, but it goes along the lines of avenging the death of one of their own, and if you can’t guess witch one it will be within 10 minutes in, then you are really not trying. Seeing the big three standing side by side does stir up some joy, as does the Stallon and Van Damn’s face off and Jason Statham has a tasty fight with Vilein’s henchman played by Scott Adkins. The key relationship is still Statham and Stallone and the two still have good chemistry, but the by the time the credits roll, you will leave feeling short changed.
When is a Bourne film not a Bourne film? That’s the question I find myself asking when watching the next installment of the Jason Bourne franchise. The answer it appears, when the lead character not in it. Since Paul Greengrass warped things up previously with Ultimatum, the studios were still cooking up ideas for a sequel. With neither Greengrass or Matt Damon on board, we now have Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner), an agent working with a separate branch called Outcome. However Bournes actions in the previous installment compromises the top secret programs in connecton, forcing Eric Byer (Edward Norton) to eliminate all operatives involved, leaving Cross on the run.
Legacy takes it’s time to get moving, more than necessary. As the new characters are introduced and a new plot is developed, it wastes time with the events of the previous film and over sells the reasoning of why we are not watching the further adventures of Jason Bourne. It is a shame, as this slows the pace down. Instead of cracking on with the action, we are stuck in a room for about 20 minutes of the running time, with shady government types, as they explain all the connections that link up with Matt Damon. Still, as it stands, Renner is a fine choice to lead. Walking straight of Mission: Impossible and The Avengers, he proves to be more than capable as an action hero. Hooked on a drug that enhances his abilities, Cross needs a fix. So he runs to the aid of Dr. Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz), a scientist working for Outcome who is in the same predicament of being rubbed out. Weisz does a believable turn as someone who is pushed out of their depth, while being both confused and scared. Directed by Tony Gilroy who has been involved through out the series, plays it straight and confident. Lacking in the trademark handheld shaky cam, it misses the energy that made the Greengrass films exciting. That said, things pick up when Renner gets to fight wolfs, shoot down drones and generally beat people up. Norton is a perfect choice a shadowy head facing a wall of screens. Using his monotone delivery as he orders colleagues to their deaths for the sake of the government. However, he feels lost and underused amongst the bags exposition.
So what does this mean for the future? Will Mat Damon return and team up with Cross? Do we care? Gilroy & Co should have had more faith in their convictions and just told a different story, but in a same universe. The Bourne Legacy is a perfectly fine 95 minute triller. It’s a pity that it’s running time is 2 hours 15..