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Overall Rating

Awesome: 22.88%
Worth A Look40.52%
Just Average: 20.92%
Pretty Crappy: 13.07%
Sucks: 2.61%

7 reviews, 111 user ratings

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Bourne Identity, The (2002)
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by Jack Sommersby

"More of the Same Old, Same Old"
2 stars

Nothing new here, just some good location shooting and brisk pacing.

In light of the awesome critical praise having been reaped upon the spy thriller The Bourne Identity by some reviewers I respect, I expected more going in than a routine, by-the-numbers spy thriller -- which is exactly what I got. The film is an adaptation of best-selling Robert Ludlam's same-name novel, but even non-readers won't help but feel deja vu for they've likely seen so many similarly plotted spy thrillers of its ilk that they can foresee a great deal of the story developments a whole lot sooner than the instigators and reactors of and to the action. When Jason Bourne (played by Matt Damon) is hauled out of the cold ocean waters by a Marseilles fishing crawler in an unconscious state and is shown to have a good number of bullet holes in him, not to mention a serious case of amnesia, a mental alarm immediately goes off, and the pieces already start formulating in our head: that someone tried to kill him and will try again immediately upon discovery that he's still alive. Since audiences aren't relatively stupid (as they mostly portend to be in shelling out massive amounts of box-office dollars for cliched crap), the assumption that Bourne is associated with a U.S. government agency isn't too much in doubt, and neither is the further assumption that the very same people who trained him will want him dead. What's fatal to the film isn't that both of these are true, but that the filmmakers have developed and executed the material as if, in audiences' eyes, they readily are not, as if we hadn't seen more than five spy thrillers in our lifetime. If the obviousness were inherent simply in the set-up, it'd be forgivable; but since the entirety is absolutely smothered in it, it's disgraceful.

Bourne is a pretty nimble and powerful killing machine, as he's been trained to be by the CIA. He can fight hand-to-hand, shoot a gun accurately even while in motion, and outdrive pursuers with the best of them. But none of this is particularly exciting or tantalizing because, due to the absence of dramatic underpinnings, we couldn't care less about Bourne -- his amnesiac condition is employed more as a plot device and skimmed over as if he were suffering nothing more than a temporary affliction of head lice -- so we're never able to truly identify with him and sense his tragic loss of individuality. (Damon's bland, unresponsive performance doesn't help, either.) Maybe the screenwriters sensed this, too, which would explain them giving Bourne a spunky female sidekick (Franka Potente) in the hope of sprucing things up. It doesn't. The character's a hoary cliche (you know the instant Bourne notices her conversing loudly with a stiff counter clerk in an American Embassy that she'll soon be "coming along for the ride"), and the game Potente is left with movie on her face in trying to lend credence to a character who's about as believable as Faye Dunaway was as Robert Redford's captive in Three Days of the Condor (which also involved a CIA agent being hunted down by members of his own agency). Apparently, some other talented actors saw some merit in this ridiculous screenplay, as well: Manhunter's Brian Cox goes through the motions as an unscrupulous section head, and Adaptation's Chris Cooper gives his first boo-hiss performance as Bourne's dastardly supervisor.

The director is Doug Liman, whose resume includes the engaging Swingers and the I-Wanna-Be-Tarantino calamity Go. Liman is a pretty fair technician, all things considered, but he doesn't have a particularly arresting camera eye -- the 2.35:1 widescreen compositions lack variety in the back- and foreground sections, with the focus always centered on the obvious -- or a talent for staging action and juxtaposing the shots into a dizzyingly kinetic whole -- when Bourne descends from a five-story building bare-handed sans ladder and reaches bottom, he might as well of come off a grade-school jungle gym. We never feel Bourne's elation that he's doing dangerous things phenomenally well and with little effort; Liman is so dedicated to making a smooth-looking production that he seems afraid of rendering the frames off-kilter when the situation warrants it. What this comes down to is that Liman isn't really interested in Jason Bourne: he doesn't mean anything to him in the way a good leading character should to a director, which can aid in jump-starting some emotional responses to be incorporated into the technical aspects so he's seeing the story unfold through his protagonist. Maybe Liman was just afraid of concentrating too much on character and not enough on the plot in his first big-budget studio assignment, of taking chances, of really getting in there and digging into a scene to see what he and his actors are capable of unearthing for the sake of spontaneity and freshness. With this tame, nondescript approach, of course, there's a tradeoff: the story's events unfold professionally enough while the character developments are merely routine to serve the story. The result is alienating, because it's so darned business-like and impersonal.

The Bourne Identity isn't a complete dud. The first thirty minutes or so move at an even clip, are crisply paced, and manage to entice with the various European locales. (Most of the film was shot in Prague.) But soon the filmmakers start tipping their hand by making the audience privy to pertinent information before Bourne gets wise to it, which allows us a step or two ahead of him and saps the story of immediacy (an element crucial to any thriller). And since the characters are of no interest, the audience is left to concentrate on the plot, which couldn't be more mundane. The film lacks both originality and humor, two assets screenwriter Shane Black and director Renny Harlin brought to the party in 1996's extraordinary The Long Kiss Goodnight, which offered up Geena Davis as an amnesia-ridden government assassin and Samuel L. Jackson as a low-rent private eye aiding her. It was cartoonish and absurd, sure, but it boasted dazzling action sequences, vivid characterizations in roles both big and small, generous helpings of screamingly funny one-liners -- and, most importantly, a proper respect for its heroine's complex emotional transitions (when she regressed back to her former violent self, it horrified both her and us). By comparison, The Bourne Identity is hopelessly lame. Unlike its hero, it knows what it is throughout, and it's of the deadened, no-interest variety that if the film were a person, you'd tell he or she to get a life. Call it The Bored Identity, or, in reference to co-star Pontente's breakthrough foreign film, Run Jason Run.

Watch "The Long Kiss Goodnight" instead. Trust me.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=4637&reviewer=327
originally posted: 01/27/03 14:20:11
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User Comments

9/13/17 morris campbell great start to the franchise 5 stars
6/08/14 The king The film that started it all 5 stars
8/25/13 DB It's OK. The classic James Bond movies are way better. 3 stars
9/03/12 Courtney A quintessential action movie. Worth a watch. 4 stars
2/06/11 Pamela White Great spy drama with thought out action scenes, a hit 5 stars
10/29/09 MP Bartley In danger of being unfairly overshadowed by the admittedly superior sequels. 4 stars
10/27/08 blah blah fucking great fuck off the rest of you losers 5 stars
7/23/08 Shaun Wallner This ones ok. 3 stars
7/05/08 James Liman and Damon deliver a tense action thriller 4 stars
7/03/08 greasy steve this film was embarassingly bad. the emperor's new clothes 1 stars
1/26/08 Pamela White suspense, suspense and action great 5 stars
1/02/08 Heywood Jablowme Top-shelf thriller....even though his gf looks like a dude... 5 stars
12/12/07 davidbobo20 Best action movie since 007. 5 stars
10/11/07 Charles I wish someone in the production had read more than the dust jacket... still entertaining. 3 stars
6/27/07 gr117 Incredible! 5 stars
11/03/06 becky entertaining, but not worth buying 3 stars
5/25/06 William Goss Highly enjoyable spy thriller, if only for that car chase. 4 stars
11/20/05 Quigley one of my favorite films. matt damon was awesome, and the action and story were amazing 5 stars
11/07/05 Michael An Enjoyable Movie 4 stars
8/18/05 ES Exceptional movie followed by and even better sequel 4 stars
8/11/05 Kelly amazing action scenes and story even if it doesnt follow the book 5 stars
3/25/05 Denise good 3 stars
3/23/05 Charlie Better than the second one. Awesome car chase. 5 stars
3/17/05 B. D. Cole I'm not much of an action movie fan, but I thoroughly enjoyed this one 4 stars
3/14/05 cinkcool I can understand plot deviations from the book, after the first 20 mins this is not like it 3 stars
3/13/05 Tamara Burks I've read the book so I knew the basic plot but this was an excellent update 5 stars
3/04/05 Chris Stephens One of the best action movies I have seen 4 stars
2/25/05 James Kiang Excellent addition to the spy genre. 4 stars
2/22/05 julia great movie 5 stars
2/22/05 gracecchu Awesome movie, the sequel is also good. 5 stars
2/21/05 Debora Browning Good Movie liked it alot 4 stars
2/19/05 Charlene Javier Damon is hot! 4 stars
2/19/05 Diane Stahlman GOOD 4 stars
2/18/05 april gupton first one was better 2 stars
2/17/05 Eileen Lammers I expected more... so I was disappointed! 3 stars
2/17/05 Fahad Pinto great plot, good details 4 stars
2/17/05 dian anderson IF YOU HAVE NOTHING ELSE TO DO 3 stars
2/16/05 Dusty Johnson Great movie - my wife and I both liked it! Good story line from novel. 5 stars
2/16/05 Lisa Jochelson I enjoyed this movie, it kept me on the edge of my seat and frankly Matt Damone is hot. 5 stars
2/15/05 Joshua Lenti-Jones better than the recent bond flicks 5 stars
2/14/05 Angela Saunders Fast moving sequel, worth watching! 4 stars
1/07/05 Edisana Odudu I wish Julia Stiles were bare in it rather than barely in it! 4 stars
12/26/04 The Mockingbird very efficient, does everything a spy movie can, and matt is endearing or hot or something 4 stars
12/04/04 Kristina Williams Matt as a secret agent works. he's plain, unlike this flick. 5 stars
11/30/04 R.W. Welch Best Secret Agent Man pic in a while tho it gets a bit flakey towards the end. Good perfs. 4 stars
11/02/04 Stevo Better than any other spy genre out there 4 stars
8/30/04 Archanist 101 Now this is even better than another "007: Die Another Day" 5 stars
8/26/04 Aaron Smith awesome intrigue; Franka key part of movie 5 stars
8/03/04 Blair everything a movie should be 5 stars
7/23/04 Wallace_h@webtv.net The music was loud, so I stayed awake. Lots of chaos. Very little meaning. Inept. . 2 stars
7/03/04 Daveman Not worth your time, unless you're obsessed with the mundane spy thriller genre. 2 stars
5/13/04 Agent Sands Lots of fun. Good action. 4 stars
5/06/04 Ross Recommend the book, but movie is just as good. 4 stars
4/07/04 Sig Very intertaining, cant wait for the sequeal, "Bourne Supremacy" in 2004 5 stars
2/10/04 Jun Abuyen ok but it's a short movie 4 stars
2/03/04 Charles Tatum Smart thriller, 007 writers should take notes 4 stars
12/19/03 Kent okay. Not bad 3 stars
12/15/03 HorrorScribbler Entertaining spy stuff. Good supporting cast. 4 stars
9/21/03 Rinse Really good, Franka=HOTTTTT 5 stars
9/03/03 Alex Damon has the screen presence of a indoor plant + the chick was fugly 2 stars
6/07/03 jlh I liked it. Not great, but well done. 4 stars
5/21/03 djacosta Nothing special 3 stars
5/17/03 R.W. Welch Somewhat familiar plot line but smartly done. 4 stars
5/10/03 Mystique cool action-scenes 4 stars
4/19/03 Dillon I really enjoyed it & I like everyone in the cast, esp. Clive & Franka 5 stars
4/17/03 Blubberbot basic hollywood action film 2 stars
4/16/03 Maegs Hey, I liked it. 4 stars
4/11/03 me good 4 stars
3/25/03 mitchell macari good 4 stars
3/12/03 Archmage Merlin Not enough action. Needs more pyrotechnics or something 2 stars
2/28/03 Monday Morning Wish he could have hit a few of those cheese-eating surrender monkeys during car chase. 2 stars
2/14/03 Chris Nothing new. Nothing bad either. 4 stars
2/14/03 Chris Nothing new. Nothing bad either. 4 stars
2/07/03 mr. Pink The best action film of 2002! An exciting and sometimes over-the-top movie! 4 stars
2/05/03 chuck could have been a better plot. 4 stars
2/05/03 123 This movie ain't special. With its predictable boring plot i can't see anything exciting 3 stars
1/28/03 kitt4film@hotmail.com Clice Owen se he was more interesting then Matt Damon. Action Good Plot Slow. 3 stars
1/28/03 Terry Gatton & Chris Cole We give it two king ding dongs up!!! 4 stars
1/07/03 George Nedelchev Surpisingly bad 1 stars
12/30/02 Tam Damon & action scenes are good, but the plot drags towards its anti-climax of an ending. 3 stars
10/30/02 spacecowboy oh come on, whoever reckons this is shit needs to have their head checked. 5 stars
10/04/02 Matthew Smith one of the most enjoyable action thrillers of the year, great car chase 5 stars
10/04/02 MovieJunky Mediocre, but I expected it to be worse. Franka is nice. 4 stars
10/03/02 Digi interesting story, boring everything else 3 stars
9/29/02 the spacecowboy thoroughly enjoyable. 5 stars
9/28/02 Peter Sherlock Another American formula movie. Rubbish for the braindead. 1 stars
8/21/02 Jerry Predictable Ending, Puts the Crap in CRAP 1 stars
8/06/02 I Can't Swim Anything with Franka & Clive must be seen & must be fantastic..oh, Matt was okay I guess 5 stars
7/19/02 ??? matt damon did great 5 stars
7/15/02 Carl To say this film is of an outdated genre dressed in modern technology is an understatement. 2 stars
6/24/02 Mike Nothing like the book. Hopefully the Bourne Supremacy will have some semblance of a plot. 4 stars
6/24/02 Film Afficianado Stock action film, predictable from the time you figure out what is going on 1/3 into it. 3 stars
6/22/02 cleansparks not bad, a bit predictable, but kept my attention 4 stars
6/21/02 Joanne Good Matt eye candy! 5 stars
6/21/02 Obi Wan Not bad for a first Action vehicle Matt . . . 4 stars
6/21/02 Jonathan Only real complaint was that I thought the car chase was way too drawn out, awesome besides 4 stars
6/17/02 Nick2k damn this movie was good. chockful of suspense. yes, i noticed the daylight too. 5 stars
6/17/02 wintermute Did anyone notice the HUGE daylight/nighttime continuity error in the 2nd to last scene? 3 stars
6/16/02 brent young a great way to spend some cash & some time... it was fun. somewhere between 4 & 5 stars... 4 stars
6/16/02 Ben It's OK. 3 Days of the Condor and The Day of the Jackal are much better. 3 stars
6/16/02 "Yes the shit." Yes. Entertaining and fun. No horribly original but fun. 4 stars
6/16/02 Paul Taylor Definitely on the high end of "worth a look". A solid film. 4 stars
6/15/02 natasha smart, interesting, a little outside of the ordinary--well done 5 stars
6/15/02 strider3700 Actually pretty good. The car chase was well done 4 stars
6/15/02 Greyjack Good, fun, well-executed film. Enjoyed the hell out of it. 4 stars
6/14/02 john wonderful 5 stars
6/14/02 Gibbo Non-stop action - lots of fun!!! 5 stars
6/14/02 Phil M. Aficionado Production is a 5, great action; story a 2 and acting a 3+; it's fine but not memorable 3 stars
6/14/02 Human Shield I had a blast. Matt Damon should be in more action movies. 5 stars
6/14/02 gunter Some remakes should not be remade; see Memento instead 3 stars
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  14-Jun-2002 (PG-13)
  DVD: 13-Jul-2004


  26-Sep-2002 (M)

Directed by
  Doug Liman

Written by
  Tony Gilroy
  David Self
  W. Blake Herron

  Matt Damon
  Chris Cooper
  Brian Cox
  Clive Owen
  Judy Parfitt
  Franka Potente

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