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Here's a perfect example of how to take perfectly good material and aperfectly good cast of ringers and turn them into perfect tripe. It's"The Bourne Identity," and it's director Doug Liman and starMatt Damon's attempt to craft a compelling spy caper out of a 20-year-oldRobert Ludlum text by tricking it out with Clancy-era clichd hardware-butseriously, if that's what you're looking for, boot up the Xbox andthrow in Splinter Cell.

Speaking of video games, you'll find the same type of superfluous, roboticperformances here, thanks to poorly-used supporting players. Take Clive Owen,a spooky British actor with a face like a side of corned beef. Oh look,he's dead. And then there's the prim but dangerous Julia Stiles as CIAfield agent. Oh look, she's merely Chris Cooper's secretary.What a waste. Apparently, hiring talent and giving them nothing to do is notjust for Robert Altman movies anymore (although it must be said that Cooper-ina lovely shade of dickhead-is right on target as a hawkish black ops commander).

Unlike his fancy-pants friend Mr. J-Lo, Damon can actually act, but unfortunately giveslittle depth to amnesiac Jason Bourne-a man who's pulled out of theocean by a fishing boat with no memories of how he got there. Identity thrillersneed to maintain tension over the main character's self-discoveries (see"Memento"), but once Damon realizes he's really a top secretnetwork operative, he inexplicably decides that he just doesn'twant to be one anymore. Believe it or not, the talented Mr. Ripley just wantsto go hang out with the girl from "Run Lola Run" and maybe have asandwich. A slightly boring identity for a highly-trained killing machine, n'estpas?

For his part, Liman seems absolutely baffled, directing the proceedings withthe precision and of a feces-tossing chimpanzee. The eye for relationshipsand irony that was so acute in "Swingers"-certainly one of thebest indie comedies of the '90s-is nowhere to be seen. It's asif the steadycam is rolling and he's just holding on for dear life untilthe effects team gets there. If these two clowns are signed up forthe sequel (there's a couple more books to abuse), they need to rememberthis: next time, less techno, more thriller.
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