When Jason Bourne was first hooked out of the Mediterranean with bullet-holes in his body and similarly jagged craters in his mind, few would have wagered that: a) Matt Damon could convince as an amnesiac action man; and: b) that The Bourne Identity could convince as a sleek spy thriller. But convince they do, with blistering unarmed combat, screeching car chases and moral mugginess unfolding against a vivid European backdrop.
Buddying with Franke Potente's punky traveller to find out why scowly CIA bosses Brian Cox and Chris Cooper are out to finish him off, Damon surprises as a gratifyingly human super-agent. Of course, it doesn't hurt one bit that he can rag a Mini like Charlie Croker and crack skulls like Jet Li. Credit also to hip-flick helmer Doug Liman, whose kinetic lensing gives the action a fresh, frosty realism that feels distinctly anti-Hollywood.
What a downer, then, to find the plot leaking momentum as it chugs through final-third convolutions that fail to camouflage the fact that Bourne has run out of ideas. The film, like its befuddled protagonist, winds up with killer qualities but nowhere to run with them.