‘Premium Rush’ Review


Film Pulse Score

Release Date: August 24, 2012
Director: David Koepp
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Film Pulse Score: 7/10

It’s easy to criticize how companies market their films at times. They often misrepresent what they’re selling in an attempt to drum up business and this is mostly done because those same marketers lack confidence in the product – either as a competent film or because they don’t think there’s really a market for it.

For that reason, I have to hand it to the people behind Premium Rush. The trailers and promotional materials presented it as an action movie about bicycle messengers and that’s exactly what they gave us.

There’s no pretense and there are no moments of deep reflection shoe-horned in just to try to give the film an air of “legitimacy.” It’s just a zippy, well-paced chase movie across the streets of Manhattan.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars as Wilee, one of the best bicycle couriers in New York City. In the first five minutes, we find out that he rides a fixed-gear bicycle with no brakes, has recently broken up with fellow bike messenger Vanessa (Dania Ramirez) and has a less than friendly rivalry with another messenger named Manny (Wole Parks). Other than that, the only other character note we ever really get is that Wilee graduated from law school but has never taken the bar because the idea of wearing a suit everyday creeps him out.
In other movies, that kind of paper-thin character would be a detriment. In this movie, any more depth would simply get in the way.
The plot kicks into gear when Wilee responds to a courier request from his alma mater and takes off to deliver his package to Chinatown.

Soon after, he finds himself the target of an intense manic stranger (Michael Shannon) who demands that Wilee turn over the package or else.

After that, it’s a chase movie. Levitt on bicycle while everyone zips after him.

At first, it’s hard to tell how seriously the movie takes itself, but there’s a point in the story where Wilee is being chased not only by Shannon’s character, but also a determined bicycle cop (Christopher Place) while Wilee himself chases/races after Manny with the help of Vanessa (who is on her own bike). It’s so gleefully absurd and over the top that it’s clear that everyone in the movie is in on the joke. When Wilee rides his bike – in slow motion¬ – out of a steam bank a few minutes later, all bets are off.

The movie is benefitted from a stylistic, slick presentation, featuring CGI aerial representations of Manhattan overlayed with GPS-style colored route lines that show where Wilee is headed as well as a clever thematic device where we see Wilie go through several route options in his head before determining which is safer. The imagined “consequences” of the wrong choices range from wince-enducing to darkly hilarious, and Koepp smartly ceases featuring it right before it becomes tiresome.

The performances from Levitt and Shannon are as you’d expect. Levitt is charming, spunky and tough and perfect for his role. Shannon is so gleefully manic and over-the-top that he somehow steals the movie from everyone.

Other than one overly long race scene between Wilee and Manny, the only other issue the film runs into is one of tone. It can’t figure out whether it’s supposed to be a light-hearted, tongue-in-cheek action flick or not. If often takes odd shifts in mood that are jarring, including one near the end that just doesn’t seem to fit everything else we’ve seen so far.

If you don’t go into Premium Rush expecting anything than what it was sold to be – a slightly ridiculous, obviously over-the-top, high-speed bicycle chase movie – you probably won’t be disappointed.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.