Can Jeremy Renner Save An Action Movie Franchise?
Jeremy Renner has been a staple in our lives for well over a decade now. After breaking through critically in the late aughts, Renner transitioned to action movies, where he will undoubtedly continue to stay until he calls it quits. But Renner hasn't yet gotten the role of a lead in an action flick (if you don't count Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters, which you probably shouldn't), which is long overdue for an actor of his caliber. In honor of the release of Mission Impossible: Fallout last weekend, let's see where he could find a way to the top.
Sure, he'll never be the 'lead' in a world of superheroes, but only because Hawkeye is some guy who took a lot of archery classes (he's like Arrow, but not as intense). He could assume the Phil Coulson role from the first Avengers as the guy who brings everyone together, especially since there's no clear roadmap for what happens after the conclusion of Phase III. Ironman was the de facto leader from the beginning because he got two movies before anyone else got one, until he got all mopey after Ultron. Captain America briefly took over until… Civil War? And then Thor took the baton in Infinity War, which he'll likely continue to hold as next year's Avengers is set to be Chris Evans' farewell performance. More likely, however, is a standalone Hawkeye movie where the character isn't consistently outshined by people with actual superpowers. With sequels for Spiderman and Guardians the only officially announced projects at this point (needless to say we'll be getting follow-ups for Doctor Strange and Black Panther), the future is wide open.
Hear me out here – yes, Jeremy Renner wasn't in either of the movies and hasn't even been remotely associated with the series (besides the fact that the writer of Sicario also wrote Renner's 2017 film Wind River), but this is a perfect pairing. This year's Day of the Soldado already shuffled around the cast, removing the lead of the original (Emily Blunt) and shifting attention to Benicio del Toro, with Josh Brolin (suddenly mega-famous from playing Thanos and Cable months apart) supporting. The construct – the American government fighting Mexican cartels via the drug war – easily allows for such a shift, as Renner could play a special forces agent gone rogue under Brolin's direction. While he'd never quite fit into the Bond world (mostly due to lack of an accent or general sex appeal), this is where Renner thrives best, in a hard-nosed action flick grounded somewhat in reality. We saw that in his two Academy Award nominations for The Town and The Hurt Locker, both of which are just as intense and dark. Give the man a third stab at this award.
Renner came along at an interesting time for the Bourne franchise, considering that most people thought it was over after 2007's Ultimatum, the logical end to the original Jason-Bourne-lost-his-memory story arc. It gets even more confusing since Renner doesn't play Bourne or anyone related to Bourne, but rather fellow superspy Aaron Cross. And of course, Matt Damon refused to do another Bourne movie unless director Paul Greengrass – who helmed the first three – was attached, something that wouldn't happen until 2016's Jason Bourne, a movie that Renner was never even considered to be included in (as Greengrass wanted a Bourne-centric story). The only Bourne movie Renner has starred in, The Bourne Legacy, was a full six years ago. The film received a mixed critical response not because of Renner's performance (which many praised) or the action (considering it included one of the best action shots in the series), but simply because he failed in the ultimate task of being Matt Damon. When Damon signed Producer Frank Marshall said that Jason Bourne didn't affect the possibility of a Renner sequel, rather stating that "they're still two different projects, two different films." Both leads (at some point) have expressed interest in some kind of crossover, but it seems logical that there would need to be one more Renner movie before a crossover would work narratively. And while it's hard to see a future where Bourne is helmed by someone other than Matt Damon, it'll only take one more movie to bring the Bourne character to its narrative end.
Sure, the movie was loosely based on a real-life story of a group of friends playing the same game of tag over many years, but I don't think anyone was watching this for the relatability. You could branch this out to other childhood games like hide-and-seek, telephone, Marco Polo, or even capture the flag. And if you're really married to the idea of tag, there's shadow tag or freeze tag. Renner, who starred as the world's greatest tag player (while having two broken arms!), could graduate to the world's greatest gamesman, with an interchangeable group of sidekick comedians to play against. You're telling me they made three Pitch Perfect movies, and this wouldn't be a hit?
The cool thing about these movies is that it focuses on the getaway driver, one of the most important parts of a heist but the one perhaps least mentioned. It's died a very slow, protracted death since the trilogy of films concluded in 2008, paving the way for a 2014 TNT series and a 2015 cinematic reboot. In the movies, headliner Jason Statham played a super serious driver (or 'transporter') with only three rules – 'once a deal is made, it is final', 'no names', and 'never open the package', the latter of which he breaks almost immediately. Renner (presumably) has plenty of experience driving cars and mean-mugging, and the series could be adapted for 2018 by making him an Uber transporter. Maybe he could even drive around a group of friends playing tag or something.
Even though I mentioned it as the impetus at the very top, Renner is actually not going to be in the latest Mission movie because of scheduling conflicts with Avengers. Mission 6 didn't even have a script when it started production, which is a fun concept if you imagine Tom Cruise just running around doing random stunts while someone captures it on their cell phone. But Renner has been a reliable number two to Tom Cruise since 2011's Ghost Protocol, and at one point did seem like the heir apparent to the point where he actually came out and said, "it's a franchise to potentially take over." Seven years later, that feels like far from a certainty, considering Cruise's longevity (MI6 is already getting great reviews) and Renner's benching for most of Rogue Nation (in the trailer, Renner just stands around looking at things). Renner is ten years Cruise's junior, so he can fit into the theoretical timeline, but only if Cruise voluntarily steps aside. The three years between Rogue and Fallout was the shortest interval between installments in the franchise, so we could be getting Mission 7 as early as 2021. If Cruise takes that one as his curtain call, we may see Renner back in time to step up to the plate.
Hansel and Gretel
I know I said that you really shouldn't count this, but there's huge universe potential here. While this film was obliterated by critics, it made bank at the box office and has a great premise (what happens when Hansel and Gretel actually grow up). It was like Snow White and the Huntsman and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, but if those films didn't take themselves seriously at all. It could be an anthology franchise, where Jeremy Renner and uh… replaceable female lead play the main characters. Think about Snow White from the point of view of one of the dwarves, or her alter ego Rose Red. What about a story centered around Cinderella's godmother? Or perhaps the backstory of the wolf in Little Red Riding Hood (oh wait, wasn't that X-Men Origins: Wolverine?). There are literally hundreds of fairy tales that they can warp for a fun wintertime thriller. It's a better idea than The Dark Universe, and if they release their movie trailers without sound, it won't be a mistake.
There's a very good reason that this is last on the list. In May of this year, Paramount pulled Transformers 6 from its release schedule, leaving the series' future after this year's Bumblebee unclear. Having pivoted from I-am-not-famous-anymore Shia LaBeouf to let's-explain-the-statutory-rape-laws Mark Wahlberg after three movies, Renner could prove to be the injection of life that the robots need. LaBeouf and Wahlberg weren't really the brawny types (remember when LaBeouf got tricked into making out with a Decepticon?), a type that Renner can play with ease, allowing the Transformers themselves to show their brains and intellect instead of having to carry the burden of the action.