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‘The Bourne Legacy’: Plenty of action, not clarity | 2½ stars

“The Bourne Legacy” is an odd combination of sequel, spinoff and reboot.

It’s a “Bourne” movie without Bourne, but with continual references to his exploits. It follows up on events from the previous films but takes off in its own direction. It introduces Jeremy Renner (“The Hurt Locker,” “The Avengers”) as a bona fide action star, ready to take over the franchise, James Bond-style.

In other words, it’s chaotic, but still kind of fun.

The sequel part deals with the fallout from Jason Bourne’s efforts to bring down his shady government bosses. A program called “Outcome” is in the crosshairs, panicking the offices of Eric Byer (Edward Norton) and his top-secret cronies, led by an intimidating retired admiral (Stacy Keach). Outcome places medically enhanced agents in trouble spots around the world, and Byer reluctantly orders their deaths to prevent exposure.

That doesn’t sit well with the star of the spinoff, Renner’s Aaron Cross. Cross is an Outcome agent who manages to escape assassination, then tracks down Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz), a doctor whose work helped create the enhancements — and whose own life is in danger.

Together, they reboot the series by running around a lot, evading Byer’s attempts to kill them while digging deeper into the Outcome program. This opens up all sorts of possibilities for future stories, as Cross’ superpowers can combine with Shearing’s expertise to mix it up with any range of high-powered threats.

Renner is a terrific tough guy, handling the abuse inflicted on him by director Tony Gilroy (who, after scripting the three previous “Bourne” films, co-wrote this one with his brother, Dan). There are countless fights and shootouts and a delightfully insane extended chase sequence through the streets of Manila. Like most modern directors, Gilroy likes his shaky-cam, but he at least holds still long enough to let viewers see what’s going on.

As befits its hybrid nature, “The Bourne Legacy” never feels like a single, cohesive film. There are plots and subplots everywhere, characters who only appear long enough to provide violence and/or exposition, and pages of jargon-laced dialogue.

If you haven’t seen the other “Bourne” movies in a while, you may want to hold a refresher marathon, too. You won’t

need

it to understand this one, but if it helps cut through the clutter, that can only be a good thing.


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