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Premium Rush (A Movie Review)

Premium Rush


Starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Michael Shannon, Dania Ramirez, Jamie Chung, Aaron Tveit, Aasif Mandvi, Anthony Chisholm, Henry O, Christopher Place. Kymberly Perfetto, Ashley Austin Morris, Wolé Parks and Kevin Bolger.

Screenplay by David Koepp and John Kamps.

Directed by David Koepp.

Distributed by Columbia Pictures.  91 minutes.  Rated PG-13.

Premium Rush is an odd filmgoing experience in the fact that the movie wants us to be horribly concerned for the safety of a group of people who appear have no real concern for their own safety.

Well, okay, perhaps they do have some, but they are also such dedicated speed and sensation junkies that logic dictates that they could get mangled at any second.

The fact that Premium Rush does inspire concern for them – at least some concern – is mostly down to the sheer likability of Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Gordon-Levitt plays a Manhattan bike messenger named Wilee (and yes, there are a few Road Runner/Wile E. Coyote references here) who is proud of the fact that his bike has no brakes.  You stop, you die, he claims.

Technically, despite his name, the character is more like the Road Runner than the coyote, the speeding force of nature which somehow through sheer speed and smarts evades the most elaborate traps of his nemesis. The coyote here is an out-of-control corrupt New York policeman played with ultimate twitchiness by Michael Shannon. Shannon plays the bad cop as a modern variation on his Boardwalk Empire G-Man character – the only real difference between the two is that this guy does not claim to have found God and instead luxuriates in his sins.

There is not much of a story here, but Premium Rush is pedaling so quickly that it hopes you won’t notice until it passes you by.

Here is the plot – in a nutshell.  Wilee has to deliver an envelope across Manhattan in slightly over an hour.  Naturally, he has no clue what the package is, but it was given to him by an Asian friend of his (Jamie Chung) who seemed jumpy and tense as she handed it to him.  No problems, right?

He is stopped as he is leaving by the dirty cop, claiming to be her boss and needing the envelope back.  However, Wilee may not believe in traffic laws, but he does not give a package to anyone who is not the listed recipient.  He takes off and starts to ride downtown for his delivery – only to have the rogue cop hot on his tail (in cars) and apparently trying to kill him. 

The story flashes back and forth from here, giving a bit of background on what the friend was having delivered, why the cop wanted to get a hold of it (though the fact that the cop even knew it existed was a huge plot stretch), the cop’s alcohol and gambling problems and what he has done to piss off Asian mobsters.

Other plot threads slip in – a beautiful love interest (Dania Ramirez) which is not going well for Wilee, his rival at work and for the heart of his girl (Wolé Parks) and a bike cop who is determined to arrest Wilee for his reckless bicycling.

But all that is just garnish.  Premium Rush‘s real raison d’etre is simple – to show us a bunch of dudes (and a few dudettes) on bikes, driving at break-neck speed through traffic and pedestrians and trying desperately not to wrap their bike around a pole.

Yet, lots of the high-speed hi-jinx are suddenly slowed down – for a guy on the ride of his life and trying desperately to be down in Chinatown from Harlem by 8:00, Wilee gets side-tracked quite a bit, including a stop at the local police station, an arrest, a stop at the local tow pier and a wild sprint through Central Park. 

It’s rather amazing to even consider he’d make it to his scheduled appointment, however at least the film breezes past with a sweet and vaguely dangerous vibe.

Sadly, the climax is just ridiculous.  I won’t say why or how, but you’ll know when you see it.  Let’s just say that the profoundly independent Wilee – who gave up Law School to become a bike messenger, ferchrissakes – would undoubtedly mock the obvious, cheesy maneuver.

Still, leading up to that rather disappointing crash – after all Premium Rush was also trying to reach its destination without brakes – the movie was rather breezy entertainment.

Bottom of Form

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2012 All rights reserved. Posted: September 24, 2012.


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