Jeremy Renner consolidated his grip on the Hollywood A-lister tag of late by taking up the lead role in the fourth instalment in the Bourne franchise. Apart from establishing himself as a formidable character actor he’s proving to be the thinking man’s action hero too.
Renner is one of those actors who can take a seemingly one-dimensional character and realise it with layer upon layer of complex character dycotomy and contradiction. In the end you’re not sure what you’ve got, only that there are hidden depths to the character, and that is what makes him so good to watch.
Fanatical fans of the brilliant Bourne trilogy were up in arms when it was announced that they would reboot the franchise, only this time without the central character Jason Bourne. So just exactly does that work? It’s like a James Bond film without Bond. Well, enter Jeremy Renner. Renner’s star has been in the ascendency ever since breaking the mainstream with an Oscar-nominated performance in Kathryn Bigalow’s Hurt Locker where he played adrenalin addicted Sergeant First Class William James, working with a bomb disposal unit during the Iraq War. Renner gave real pathos to a role of a man trapped between two worlds one of ‘normality’ and the one of war and whose method of dealing with the insanity in which he finds himself is to embrace it and confront it head-on. Cleverly done, with just enough of the good mixed with the bad, you never really get to know the character, you’re left not knowing if he is just plain reckless, hopeless, bad, mad or just coping in his own way.
An appearance in Ben Affleck-directed The Town when he portrayed career criminal ‘Jem’ Coughlin and turned the role of mindless criminal thug into a poignant meditation on the theme of loyalty and friendship garnered a further Oscar nomination. Roles in ‘Thor’ and ‘The Avengers’ were the crystalisation of his place on the A-list. Pictured here at the Sydney premier of ‘The Bourne Legacy’ Renner gives Bond a run for his money in a classically tailored Dolce&Gabbana.
Rare enough that you find a decent character actor that can ‘peel the onion’ yet hold his own in an all-action shoot’em up such as this, but it’s a sign of the times. Daniel Craig raised eyebrows when he accepted the role of Bond and proceeded to beef out the character and give the previously shallow British Agent much human depth; it’s what the cinema-going public want from their action heroes these days. John Rambo simply won't cut the mustard.
When Matt Damon first morphed from all American college kid into trained-to-kill, superhuman, sleeper cell agent Jason Bourne it was quite a shock but more than reinventing action movies, the plot was absorbing as it was a voyage of self discovery for Bourne. The audience couldn’t get enough and all three movies were box office smashes. When Damon felt it was time to walk away from the role, the studio was left with a conundrum as to how to continue the story.
Tony Gilroy who co-wrote the first three Bourne films penned this script and stepped into the breach to direct, meaning the film has all the feel, sights, sounds and thrills of a true Bourne production. Cleverly, he decided not to simply have another actor play Jason Bourne but instead bases the action running concurantly to the third Bourne film. One of the most interesting aspects of Bourne world was the idea of all the sleeping agents who were trained to kill but were silently living ordinary lives waiting for their moment to act. This is the story of one such agent gone rogue.
Renner plays Aaron Cross who, rather than on a quest for the truth of his own identity, is only after the drugs or ‘chems’ that have enhanced his intelligence and capabilities to continue his superhuman existence. The plug has been pulled on the top secret programme that created him and Cross’ supply of ‘chems’ is threatened. Cue lots of motorcycle chase scenes, martial arts fighting, creeping around hotel rooms and killing people. This is the worst kind of drug addict imaginable out to get his fix from the organisation that made him dependent in the first place. So this character lacks the ‘likeability’ of Bourne, he’s a harder more ruthless nut and tat makes him interesting watch. Renner plays Cross with just the right amount of crazy fearlessness and vulnerability, meaning at the end, you still don’t know what you have here. Perhaps they’re holding something back for development in future projects, but we’re already hooked.
By Hugo Mc Cafferty