Sweet girl, Julia Stiles, but she sure wasn’t made to utter lines such as “They killed our man!” Her casting as what appears to be a double-secret telephone operator is just one of the misfires that lend The Bourne Identity an amateur feel, despite its overcoming what seemed to be its biggest obstacle: Matt Damon as action hero. (Hell, if his frat-boy counterpart Ben Affleck can fill Harrison Ford’s shoes, I guess anything is possible.) Though watching Damon scale walls Spidey-style and mercilessly kick ass does take some getting used to—especially when the too-crisp whap-pows! of each blow sound cartoonishly exaggerated—his intelligent portrayal of amnesiac CIA assassin Jason Bourne belies his baby face and makes the film’s formulaic putting-together of the pieces interesting, even when the audience already knows what the puzzle will look like. Setting out to find his identity after his bullet-ridden body was discovered floating in the Mediterranean, Bourne relies on his wits and his curious instinct to attack to guide him to clues about his life, including a safe-deposit box filled with a gun, fistfuls of cash, and several passports giving him different names. He enlists the help of down-on-her-luck Marie (an understated Franka Potente) by offering her $10,000 for the use of her Mini, leading to spectacular chase scenes through the tight streets of Paris that are a better advertisement for the newly relaunched compact than BMW’s current campaign. Every time the film moves away from the engaging pair, however, it falters: Director Doug Liman manages to make the inherently slick CIA look anything but, with wannabe-tough CIA head Ted Conklin (Chris Breast Men Cooper) looking especially ridiculous as he tosses off noirish rapid-fire directives to lackeys furiously working their keyboards to hunt down the seemingly traitorous Bourne. And a subplot involving the eventual assassination of the leader Bourne was charged with killing is both extraneous and a poor use for the usually riveting Clive Owen, who plays a nearly silent backup assassin. If only Stiles had gotten that part… —Tricia Olszewski