Article by: Coop Cooper
A.K.A. The Small Town Critic
This exciting action flick surrounds the fast-paced, risky world of New York bicycle couriers. Former law student and daredevil messenger Wilee (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is the fastest rider in the fleet. Low on cash and on the outs with his coworker girlfriend, Vanessa (Dania Ramirez), he takes a last minute run to deliver a suspicious package to Chinatown. A dirty cop, Detective Monday (Michael Shannon), tries to hijack his parcel and pursues him across the city in an action-packed, no-brakes race to the finish line. On the way, Wilee attracts the unwanted attention of an overzealous bike cop, rival couriers and the Chinese mafia.
While the formulaic story seems simple and familiar, the title more than lives up to its promise. “Premium Rush” uses a stylistic, time-jumping approach to telling its story. In-between the action parts, the story flashes back to reveal the reasons behind the chase and how the various characters are interconnected. One of the more interesting devices used in the film is how Wiley calculates his chances of crossing a dangerous intersection. His near-supernatural talent for making successful split-second decisions results in some cool scenes and spectacular stunts.
The story does well to glamorize the life of bike couriers, especially the skill and danger aspect of their job and I can’t recall a good movie like it since “Quicksilver” (1986). Wilee boasts that he rides a steel-framed bike, fixed gear and no brakes. While that might sound suicidal, it lends for a great story gimmick. If the main character can’t stop, the momentum of the film never slows down and “Premium Rush” keeps up the breakneck pace throughout.
Michael Shannon absolutely chews up the scenery as the lead villain. One nice Easter egg for movie lovers in this film is the pseudonym “Forrest J. Ackerman” which Det. Monday uses when engaging in illegal activity. For those not in the know, the real Forrest J. Ackerman is the famous late Hollywood memorabilia collector who turned his home into a museum for devoted cinema fans. Monday’s manic interactions with Wiley make for some entertaining dialogue and the twice Oscar-nominated Shannon is the perfect example of just how important character actors are to Hollywood.
Gordon-Levitt once again proves he has what it takes to be an A-list actor. Many fans and critics were pleasantly surprised with how important his character in “The Dark Knight Rises” became to the film and the overall mythos of the Batman franchise. Like in “Inception,” here he proves he has the physical ability to be a bonafide action star.
Although the film is a fun time-waster, it felt more like a satisfying rental than a movie you would venture out to the theater for. While it had a good script, action and acting, at its heart it is a “bike” movie which aims to attract the enthusiasts of the sport. Many might remember the bike movies from the 1980’s such as “Breaking Away,” “American Flyers,” “Rad” and “Quicksilver.” Those films attracted teens and young men with a passion for the cycling sports. “Premium Rush” aims for the same crowd, but adds an organized crime element and some outrageous scenes to keep the non-enthusiasts entertained. It’s a formula throwback to those films marketed to the young demographic, only with a more modern flair. I wonder if “Premium Rush” will inspire Hollywood to start making skateboarding, rollerblading and surfing movies again. The studios ought to think about it. Those niche markets are primed and waiting.
“Premium Rush” slipped in and out of the theaters too quickly but I predict it will be a sleeper hit on video. It’s too exciting and fun to be ignored; a real guilty pleasure. Be looking for it on DVD/Blu-ray late November or early December, and if your kids see it, don’t be surprised if they ask for a bike for Christmas.
Rating: 3 & 1/2 out of 5 stars