"The Bourne Legacy" reviews: What critics are saying

Jeremy Renner in a scene from "The Bourne Legacy"
Rex Features via AP Images
Jeremy Renner in a scene from "The Bourne Legacy"
Universal Studios

(CBS News) "The Bourne Legacy" - the fourth installment in the action franchise and the first without Matt Damon - hits theaters Friday, and reviews for the film are in.

This time around, Jeremy Renner takes the lead as Aaron Cross, an operative caught up in life-or-death stakes triggered by the events of the first three films.

Here's what some critics are saying about the new "Bourne" film:

Pictures: Jeremy Renner
Read more: Watch the "Bourne Legacy" trailer

"[Director Tony Gilroy], who as a screenwriter has shaped the movie saga from the beginning, trades the wired rhythms established in the past two episodes by Paul Greengrass for something more realistic and closer to the ground. The change is refreshing. Jason Bourne's legacy is in good hands." - Lisa Schwartzbaum, Entertainment Weekly.

"[Jeremy] Renner doesn't have Damon's everyman grace, but, as his Oscar nominations for"The Hurt Locker"and "The Town" demonstrate, he is a formidable actor who brings his particular brand of relentless intensity to the role of a remorseless killing machine. And he adds just enough humanity...to keep us involved." - Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times.

"Where 2007's 'The Bourne Ultimatum' kicked off with a dazzle that never let up, 'Bourne Legacy' starts slowly and takes a while to connect the dots. But once the story takes off, it's viscerally engaging, anchored by strong performances, with Jeremy Renner as a capable heir apparent." - Claudia Puig, USA Today.

"Structurally, yes, it's loaded with all the lies, schemes and high-tech trickery that are staples of the espionage genre. But a deeper, more individualistic source of tension propels the film along." - Christy Lemire, Associated Press.

"The 'Bourne' legacy is furthered but not burnished by this fourth installment of the highly successful series that has heretofore been fronted by Matt Damon. With Jeremy Renner stepping in to play another covert operative and franchise screenwriter Tony Gilroy taking over the directorial reins from Paul Greengrass, the same tone and look are maintained, but the visceral excitement is muffled by familiarity, an insufficiently conceived lead character and the sheer weight of backstory and multiple layers of deception." - Todd McCarthy, Hollywood Reporter.

"It's all sound and fury signifying nothing except a desperate need to feed a franchise." - Peter Travers, Rolling Stone.

"With 'The Bourne Legacy,' Gilroy has brought characteristic taste and skill to a nearly impossible task: embracing the past without completely erasing it, thereby creating an invitingly complicated and open-ended future." - Ann Hornaday, The Washington Post.

"'The Bourne Legacy' is always gripping in the moment. The problem is in getting the moments to add up. I freely confess that for at least the first 30 minutes I had no clear idea of why anything was happening. The dialogue is concise, the cinematography is arresting and the plot is a murky muddle." - Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times.

"Through all three movies Jason Bourne was still trying to find the answers. Now with Bourne gone, Mr. Gilroy needs to find other questions worth asking." - Manohla Dargis, The New York Times.

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