Movie Review: PREMIUM RUSH
Published: August 23, 2012 - 9:49am
Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays a New York City bike messenger with a penchant for recklessness in this fun and fast-paced film reminiscent of the streamlined B-movies of the 90's.
Director David Koepp -- screenwriter for Panic Room and both writer/director on Stir of Echoes -- knows how to strip down a film to it's basic elements while not removing necessary storytelling beats that make it both engaging and enjoyable. We've got the smart but reckless hero, his girl, a competitive counterpart and a ruthless villain, whose lives intertwine on one fateful day in New York. It's an unapologetic, 80-minute chase film that delivers enough tension and laughs to make it worth repeat viewings.
The film, opening and closing with The Who's 'Baba O'Riley', shoots back and forth through a series of flashbacks that span the course of several hours. Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Wilee, an adrenaline junkie former student at Columbia Law School who now works as one of the best bike messengers in Manhattan. The notion of wearing a suit and sitting in a office terrifies him to the point that doesn't take anything seriously, even the relationship with co-worker/girlfriend Vanessa (Dania Ramirez). When her roommate (Jamie Chung) gets caught up with a desperate cop (Michael Shannon) who's trying to settle a gambling debt, Wilee has to choose between holding onto his practice of avoiding responsibility or diving into a situation with possibly lethal consequences.
Shannon is brilliant, as usual, stealing every scene with volatile antics and a menacing demeanor. He even finds time to poke fun at the film's ridiculous plot -- cops trying hopelessly to catch a guy on a bike -- which adds lightheartedness to the overall story. Gordon-Levitt is likable as ever, but add a touch of affable rebelliousness to his character that is absent from other roles he's played. The effects are well conceptualized and executed, making you flinch and feel every crash or near-miss. Adding to the fun, viewers enter Wilee's viewpoint as he races through the streets judging multiple byways simultaneously to avoid crashing. The messengers use their smart phone maps to plot their courses, which offers the audience an easy to follow perspective of New York that would get lost using only dialogue.
Premium Rush is light on spectacle but heavy on satisfaction, even though it tends to lose momentum by packing in too many flashbacks in an effort to add back story to the characters. That issue aside I found it to be some of the most enjoyable genre entertainment of the year. You'd be hard pressed not to have fun with it too.
Premium Rush, directed by David Koepp (Ghost Town), stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Inception), Jamie Chung (Sorority Row) Dania Ramirez (Entourage) and Michael Shannon (Boardwalk Empire) and is scheduled for theatrical release on August 24th, 2012.
Dodging speeding cars, crazed cabbies, open doors, and eight million cranky pedestrians is all in a day's work for Wilee (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), the best of New York's agile and aggressive bicycle messengers. It takes a special breed to ride the fixie -- super lightweight, single-gear bikes with no brakes and riders who are equal part skilled cyclists and suicidal nutcases who risk becoming a smear on the pavement every time they head into traffic.
But a guy who's used to putting his life on the line is about to get more than even he is used to when a routine delivery turns into a life or death chase through the streets of Manhattan. When Wilee picks up his last envelope of the day on a premium rush run, he discovers this package is different. This time, someone is actually trying to kill him.