Mary Cybulski/Universal Pictures
Spymaster Norton (right) teaches Renner how to stare really intently.
The Dinner : Bucatini marinara and meatballs, at Cuoco (310 Terry Ave.


Jeremy Renner Gets Bourne-ified

Mary Cybulski/Universal Pictures
Spymaster Norton (right) teaches Renner how to stare really intently.
The Dinner: Bucatini marinara and meatballs, at Cuoco (310 Terry Ave. N.).

The Movie: The Bourne Legacy, at Pacific Place (600 Pine St.).

The Screenplate: Matt Damon and director Paul Greengrass wanted nothing more to do with the very successful Bourne franchise, so enter Jeremy Renner and Tony Gilroy (who helped write the first three thrillers) to keep the money train running. Although it's too long (135 minutes) for what it is, Bourne IV is by no means a terrible movie. It's expensive-looking, it features many good performers (including Edward Norton and Rachel Weisz), and it has three or four satisfying action sequences. This makes it an adequate summer movie that could've been a good summer movie had Gilroy and his editors cut it down to 90 minutes--which is about the same length of time it takes to enjoy a decent meal at Tom Douglas' Cuoco in South Lake Union. That, as you may know, is in the heart of Amazon-land, facing the SLUT tracks and surrounded by high-tech workers who spend all day staring at computer screens. Which, unfortunately, is what Gilroy too often shows us in Bourne IV: People staring intently at their PC monitors and laptops. Summer movies should be escapist; they shouldn't remind us of work. Still, there are welcoming aspects to both Bourne and Cuoco...

Having earlier this year reviewed the Liam-Neeson-in-Alaska flick The Grey, I experienced the first scenes of Bourne IV like a frozen flashback. Here is Jeremy Renner (whose name starts out as Aaron Cross) also stranded in the snowy forest, again battling rapacious wolves, and similarly manifesting a stoic attitude of "What can you do to me? Kill me? Eat me? I've suffered worse." Like Damon's Bourne, Cross has been wiped and rebooted from his old identity (a wounded Iraq War soldier, not unlike the pilot in Source Code). This time the nefarious government agency responsible is called Outcome, running as some kind of parallel offshoot of Bourne's Treadstone; only here Cross is more obviously a product of doping and drugs. He must pop his daily green and blue pills to keep mind and body fit (well, more than fit); this allows him a very different outcome than Neeson's with the wolves.

Meanwhile, while Cross is out in the field (Alaska, Virginia, the Philippines), his government handlers fret about software and systems and meds. Bourne, we're told, was only "first generation." Cross and his eight other fellow Outcome agents are the different, bio-engineered products of a "behavioral design" protocol--version 2.0, if you will. Cross isn't a robot, but he suffers the self-aware robot's dilemma--consciousness that the plug could be pulled at any time, that he could run out of drugs, that his "platform" might be discontinued. And for most of the movie, Cross is running out of drugs; he's a junkie in need of a fix, hardware in need of an emergency software patch. Though Bourne IV treats us to the thrill of Cross leaping across rooftops, disposing of dozens in close combat, and riding a motorcycle up and down staircases, he's more sympathetic when slowly degrading and withdrawing from his "chems." As an actor, too, Renner is far more interesting to watch when expressing vulnerability and weakness. Armored in mere flesh, he sometimes suggests the dying pathos of HAL in 2001: His muscles are slackening, his mind is slowing, and suddenly he needs help.

Significantly, that help comes from a Ph.D (Weisz) who helped create the Outcome platform. On the run from the nefarious feds who betrayed them, Cross and Dr. Marta form a mobile laboratory between them. It's a more benign and almost romantic relationship that suggests Dr. Frankenstein and his monster, tenderly paired. Like everyone else in the four Bourne movies, these two are all about competence. The good guys are smart. The bad guys are smart. It's only we in the audience, who can't always follow the plot, who could use one of those blue brain-enhancing pills. Bourne IV isn't near so smart as Gilroy's Michael Clayton, but the tangled conspiracies can make you feel dumb.

Over at Cuoco, however, you feel surrounded by smart people like Dr. Marta, who don't need blue pills to do their jobs. (Endless cups of coffee and energy drinks are a different matter.) Tom Douglas has created something of a food court within Amazon-land; and Cuoco is his Italian quarter. On a pleasant summer night, the tables outside filled with badge-wielding Amazon workers, the restaurant hums with brainy, Wi-Fi energy. At the tables around you, everyone has the latest iPhone, the freshest Twitter feed, the closest proximity to the buzzing beehive of the tech economy. (Are we at Internet 2.0, 3.0, or what?)

Despite that, Cuoco and its friendly servers do a welcome push-back against the relentless efficiency of Jeff Bezos and his metrics. Not sure about the wine? Here comes a sample. Not quite ready to order? Fine, nibble on some apps. While scrutinizing the menu, three friends and I settled on the buffalo mozzarella/garlic bread and cornbread/peach/ham crepe appetizers ($13 and $11, respectively). These are sturdy, not fussy, rustic without being unfinished; and they buy a little time before ordering entrees. I later opted for the bowl of bucatini ($18), defined as "hollow dried wheat pasta," served in marinara sauce with meatballs. It's upscale peasant food, the noodles chewy but not ropey. It's a textured dish, not delicate, and you need a hearty wine to match. For that, a glass of the 2009 Vietti Barbera d'Asti 'Tre Vigne' had a round, earthy punch to it. The longer it sat, the better it got; and I was still sipping the glass with coffee after the meal. Everyone at our table shared; by general agreement, the bolognese-sauce lasagna ($19) is the favorite easy item on an already comfortable menu. Douglas isn't pushing the parameters at Cuoco; there's no danger of overreaching. For those diners around us, I suspect, the place is also a welcome respite from being constantly on the vanguard of tech.

Poor Cross gets no such reprieve in Bourne IV. After dispatching the wolves and missile-equipped government drones, he has to rescue Dr. Marta, fly to Manila, cook up some new meds, and confront a version 3.0 adversary. (In this regard, Bourne IV strongly recalls Terminator 2, when the newly sympathetic Schwarzenegger faced a younger, scarier, stronger opponent.) Their final battle, if not quite the Thriller in Manila, is what we expect from a summer action flick: daring, audacity, implausibility, and even one surprising kick from Weisz. During such moments, you can relax into the familiar pleasures of the past three Bourne movies, remember why you liked them, despite lines like Norton shouting "Put that up on the big screen" and demanding ever more satellite feeds and surveillance videos and data we also must watch. Bourne IV adds more information than excitement to the franchise, essentially promising another episode to explain the thicket of conspiracies. (And remember: Damon's Bourne is out there someplace, waiting for a bigger paycheck or better script.)

Cuoco also takes an inherently familiar, pleasing product--Italian food--without adding much novelty. As the auteur behind it, Douglas could probably switch the menu to Mexican or Thai, like swapping Renner for Damon, and the restaurant would be just as popular. Location certainly helps. And if the first meal--or first movie--was a basically sound experience, you're likely to return.

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