I've always dreamed of three things: having amnesia, being
a spy with superhuman abilities, and being one of those guys who
walks around naked as a jaybird. Imagine how great it would be
to not remember anything and be able to honestly tell your neighbor,
"I don't remember taking a crap in your flower bed"
and then doing it again. The spy part is obvious: they get paid
a shitload of money, and if you have superhuman strength you get
paid even more. If I had to choose one of my dreams through, it
would be the nudity. I would love to walk to the Ace Hardware
and buy drill bits with my wang dangling, or go get buffalo wings
with extra hot sauce while I've got a boner. And I could go to
the Arvada Tavern, sit down on a stool and drink beer until my
balls stick to the vinyl.
The Bourne Identity covers two of my dreams, and I guess
I'm pretty glad that it doesn't cover all three. I have no interest
in watching Matt Damon's balls, although even they're probably
better actors than his frat drunk buddy Ben Assfuck. But, while
it captures my dreams, the movie is Hollywood playing the same
record it always play, only this time someone bought a new needle
so it's at least crisper.
Matt Damon is Jason Bourne, an amnesiac found left for dead
in the Mediterranean with two bullet holes in his back and a tiny
flashlight that reveals the code to a Swiss safe deposit box.
In his effort to learn who he is, he travels to Switzerland and
empties the box. It is filled with forged passports and hundreds
of thousands of dollars. It also tips off the authorities that
he is not dead as they suspected. The CIA and local police are
now after him.
Escaping the cops, Damon enters the American Embassy, where
he meets Marie (Franka potente). She's in desperate straits and
takes his cash in exchange for a ride to Paris. Of course, it's
not as simple as a ride to Paris, and the arrangement leads to
the obligatory scenes where she can get away but chooses not to
because she falls in love with him.
Julia Stiles inexplicably plays an American CIA operative who
operates a safe house in Paris and tracks Damon. As Damon and
Franka elude the authorities and a crack team of CIA assassins,
she reports back to Washington. This expository trick reveals
more of who Damon is and why he is wanted dead. With the help
of Potente, Damon also pieces together his history. Surprise,
he discovers (as they always do in these movies) that he isn't
necessarily a good guy.
This is a pretty good genre action movie, but that's like saying
a turd doesn't smell so bad. Director Doug Liman keeps it churning
and movie, occasionally at the expense of character. The action
scenes are CGI-free and have a real Bullitt-era feel to
them. The police chase through the streets of Paris in an Austin
Mini is spectacular. The cat-and-mouse is probably as good as
this tired old shit is going to get.
Matt Damon is a damn good actor. This kid must think he has
to do the acting for two since his pal couldn't act his way out
of the gutter where he wakes up. Damon is all tense jaw and clenched
fists, wound up and ready to explode. Franka potente isn't so
lucky. She doesn't have much to do, but appears dead-eyed, just
occupying space in the car and struggling to remember her lines
in English. It's one of the worst and least consistent accents
in history. Worse than when my father posed as the heir to Sir
Francis Drake's fortune. Is it German, American or English? Whatever
it is, I've never heard anything like it before and hope I never
do again. It's a damn shame that a chick the world by the balls
in Run, Lola, Run is reduced to the girl who gets in harm's
way and falls in love. Why the hell is Julia Stiles in this? First,
she looks too young to be a top-notch CIA spy and her scenes feel
like playtime. Second, she's awfully well dressed for a spy hiding
in an apartment. Finally, why have a name actress play a role
with absolutely no arc? We expect more when we see someone well-paid
playing the part.
While the movie zips along for the first 90 minutes, it bogs
down as soon as potente is off-screen. While it isn't much, she
at least provides another facet to the tiresome cat-and-mouse
game that the movie devolves into. The story turns rote, like
a billion spy novels where the rogue agent has to meet his superiors
and turn the tables. There's a twist, but it's about as hokey
and stale as a crafts booth at a Texas swap meet, and there's
a coda that's as predictable and embarrassing as an incontinent
grandfather in church.
The real problem is how generic the basic story is. No matter
how new the needle is, if the record is busted, it's busted and
new record would have been better. Liman is a great director,
and his propulsion drove Go. By contrast, The Bourne
Identity feels overworked. It's a tired old whore wearing
a Chanel suit. It looks good from a distance but you get up close
and strip it down and you see the weary bones poking through the
sagging, doughy skin.
Hollywood needs to get over its addiction to amnesia stories,
and to heros with shadowy pasts. Sure the car chase is exciting,
but it ultimately is nothing but a car chase. The same is true
of the assassins, high-tech CIA and fight scenes. I guess this
is as good as a Robert Ludlum novel can be adapted, but make no
mistake, it ain't no Graham Greene. Three Fingers.