Although Premium Rush has a terrible name, indeed, it sounds like a type of pizza delivery, it in fact delivers a fun story, solid performances, and quite a few thrilling action set-pieces.
Here’s a preview:
Now the deets:
Released August 24, 2012
Written by David Koepp, John Kamps
Directed by David Koepp
Starring: Dania Ramirez, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Michael Shannon, Jamie Chung, Wole Parks, Aasif Mandvi
* * * * *
Wilee (Gordon-Levitt) is one of thousands of bike messengers/couriers who tear around New York City daily, risking life and limb to deliver packages and other sundry items to people all around the city. Wilee’s past is alluded to, but we only know that he was once a promising law student and that now he rides in order to milk life to its fullest.
He’s in love with Vanessa (Ramirez), who likely reciprocates the feeling but is not pleased that Wilee is content with living the rest of his life on a bike. She wants more. On this day, Vanessa’s roommate, Nima (Chung), requests Wilee be the one to deliver a mysterious envelope to a man across town. Nima is clearly stressed out, but the envelope is too skinny to contain any interesting amount of money.
Wilee takes the envelope, business as usual, but a cop, Bobby Monday (Shannon), shows up, asking for the envelope. Wilee sticks to his company’s policy and refuses to hand over the envelope, heading out to get it delivered. Monday follows and the race is on, with Wilee running afoul of a determined bike cop and also having to contend with Manny (Parks), a hot shot messenger who is trying to get with Vanessa. What ensues is a variety of breathless bike chase scenes, some clever writing for a group of solid actors, and a pretty entertaining, albeit cheesy, film.
Premium Rush is not too worried about flash effects or modern skeptics. Wilee is flawed in his adrenaline-junky-ness, but otherwise, he’s a determined guy who refuses to let the obviously corrupt cop get the better of him. The script is spare, telling a straightforward story with two relevant and emotional subplots. Much of the time is spent with Wilee furiously biking. These bike messengers must not have even an ounce of body fat; how they can maintain that pace for so long is stupefying.
You’ve got some great set pieces, with a camera following extended, very impressive bike chase scenes for remarkable, long scenes. You’ve got an action film with a sympathetic and charismatic hero and a very funny at times, but quite brutal bad guy. You’ve got people talking like real people, extremely great shots of NYC, and a bunch of actors, many of which are new faces, doing a very good job with an enjoyable story.
What’s not to like?
Well, we’ve seen much of this before, although there’s an edginess and tension to the bike scenes, along with a nicely understated music score, that accentuates the action differently and better than other movies we’ve seen this stuff in before. Gordon-Levitt carries the movie well with his charm and ability, although there are a few times when he seems to be channeling stoney-faced Keanu Reeves.
Michael Shannon adds fun and tension. He’s sardonic, human, frequently funny, and altogether a pleasure to watch. What is not pleasing is that the Vanessa character is too much a plot-device and not enough of a real person.
This movie is recommended.
Content warnings: some language, some uncomfortable violence
Writing: 4 Acting: 4 Overall: 4
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