Jeremy Renner is an incredibly rich and successful actor who has starred in some of the industry’s biggest franchises as well as a Best Picture winner. Yet, to my mind at least, he’s always lacked the star image of his A-list counterparts. You could list a lot of facts about Renner — he’s an Avenger, but the worst one; he has an app; he once crashed a wedding; he loves to flip houses — but they never quite added up to something concrete.
Until Tag, that is.
Thanks to this week’s action comedy, Jeremy Renner finally has a true star narrative: He’s the guy who broke both of his arms filming a movie about adults playing tag. The news broke last summer, but with the start of the Tag promo campaign, the fractured limbs have truly taken center stage. Here’s Jon Hamm breaking the news to Ellen that Renner’s broken arms were digitally replaced in the film. (Renner later clarified to Entertainment Weekly that he only had CGI arms in one scene.)
Then, Renner gave Jimmy Fallon a blow-by-blow account of the accident, which came in a scene where his character is meant to slide down a gigantic stack of chairs. Unfortunately, a hinge broke. “The stack of chairs was supposed to go, but it didn’t go. I went,” he said. “I didn’t know I broke my arms. I just fell on the ground, and was like ‘That kinda hurt. Let’s do it again.’”
Even Isla Fisher got in on the fun, spilling the beans to Jimmy Kimmel about what it was like to act opposite a man with two broken arms. “He would peel the casts off when we were rolling,” she explained. “Then he would do the scene with floppy spaghetti arms.”
After weeks of such intense build-up, there’s only one question on the minds of the American public: How obvious are Jeremy Renner’s broken arms in Tag? Luckily, I’m here to give you the answer.
Ready? Okay, here it goes: Jeremy Renner’s broken arms are very hard to spot in Tag, even if you, like me, knew about them going in.
It’s true! Part of this we can chalk up to the film’s setting of Spokane, Washington, in May, the one month a year the characters play their long-running game of tag. Per Wikipedia, the average May day in Spokane has a low of 43 degrees and a high of 68, and the characters dress accordingly: tons of layering and light jackets, perfect for hiding the casts that may or may not be on one of the actors’ arms. As you can see in the image up top, Renner’s character does strip down to a T-shirt at one point in the film, but that seems to be the scene in which his bare forearms are digital creations. (As the Ringer pointed out, the film’s trailer includes a shot from this scene in which one of Renner’s casts has been accidentally left in.)
But there’s another reason why it’s not easy to spot the fact that Renner’s range of motion was limited to moving his arms “up and down … like a robot.” In the movie, he plays a character who’s never been tagged in 30 years of play because he’s some kind of Jason Bourne–level specimen of physical skill and mental acuity. The scenes where he evades tagging are shot in this weird, jagged high-frame-rate style, sort of like the fight scenes in Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes movies. It’s the kind of aesthetic that makes it hard to concentrate on whether or not an actor is moving his wrists.
Finally, and this is where we get into light spoiler territory, the third reason why Jeremy Renner’s broken arms are not completely obvious: Jeremy Renner is not in the movie all that much. The other characters want to tag him and he does not want to be tagged, so he’s basically the Road Runner: Ed Helms, Jon Hamm, Jake Johnson, and Hannibal Buress spend most of the movie creating intricate schemes to tag him once and for all, then Renner shows up for a few minutes and makes a mockery of their best-laid plans. For the short time he’s actually onscreen, Renner is often only seen in a long shot taken from a safe distance, or isolated in head-and-shoulders shots.
I’m sorry, I know this is disappointing news. I, too, thought that Jeremy Renner’s CGI arms would be the next Henry Cavill’s CGI lip. Alas, if you’re looking for movies with hilariously obvious CGI missteps, Tag is not it.