Premium Rush

Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Michael Shannon square off against each other impressively in this adrenaline charged bicycle thriller.

There are plenty of reasons to knock this movie down a few pegs, but as hoped, the two leads deliver, and the bicycle action is unique and engrossing, making it a very decent movie to check out.

Wilee (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a courier for a bicycle messenger service in New York City. In spite of having a degree from law school, he can’t envision himself sitting behind a desk for a living. He loves making his living in a way that keeps his adrenaline going. He rides without benefit of gears or brakes on his bike, claiming that it’s actually when you stop that you get hurt.

One fateful day, he picks up a package that leads to nothing but trouble. A young woman (Jamie Chung) is sending a… sort of gangland receipt for a large sum of money across town. A cop with a gambling problem (Michael Shannon) is in deep with the mob, and is given instructions to intercept the receipt in order to clear his slate. This sets him on Wilee’s trail, and a dogged pursuit across the city ensues.

It’s not the greatest plot in the world, to be honest. At times there’s a couple of nagging holes, as well. The movie also has a couple of complications that it really doesn’t need. Primarily the fact that Wilee’s ex-girlfriend (Dania Ramirez) is also a bike messenger, and they connect her into the story even further by making her the roommate of the girl who gives him the fateful envelope to deliver. It just makes everything a little convoluted and a bit incredulous as far as her character is concerned. I guess they wanted something for her to do aside from being Wilee’s philosophical sounding board.

The movie has multiple stylistic cut aways that don’t necessarily work for me, such as suddenly showing a city overlay with the messenger’s selected route being traced out as if on Google maps, or slowing down and showing Wilee selecting the safe path through traffic by mentally envisioning the outcomes of each potential route. That particular kind of effect is reminiscent of “Kato-Vision”. I wouldn’t call these interjections of graphics a selling point exactly, but they’re not the worst detraction, either. My biggest complaint about them is that they stop the action of the bikes rushing through the New York City traffic.

Because when the movie is biking, it’s intoxicating. Even the common, calm moments have an edge to them, as the riders are pedaling full speed through NYC traffic. There’s always the chance that they’ll get suddenly clipped by a car. And the scenes are directed in such a way as to capture all the kinetic energy of the bikes and channel it directly to the screen. All of the speeding, swerving, skidding action is intensely conveyed. There are even some scenes where they take the biking action off-road and into the park, or in one memorable sequence, into a garage. In those occasions the ten speed racing action turns mountain bike and BMX respectively.

It’s hard not to get caught up in. They work very well.

The two lead performances are eminently watchable, as well. Michael Shannon is bound to get typecast as a bad guy in his career just because he’s so damn good at it. Here you not only get to watch him menace and threaten Gordon-Levitt, you also get to watch him tweak out as a degenerate gambler… which is fun. And of course, Joseph Gordon-Levitt is comfortable and perfectly believable in the lead role. He’s just so natural and at ease in every role he plays, and this one is no exception.

Between their charisma and the pulse pounding bicycle sequences there’s plenty to recommend here. Even though the movie has numerous shortcomings, there’s still a lot of enjoyment to be found in it.



30 thoughts on “Premium Rush

  1. Good write-up Fogs. I actually quite liked the look of this but from what I’m hearing it’s not cutting the mustard. That’s a shame. I like Levity and Shannon though.

    • “Levity” lol.

      It aint that bad, man. Yeah, you definitely have to be forgiving of it, but it was a decent kind of cheesey action flick. I definitely enjoyed it well enough.

      I mean, there are definitely a lot of flaws… but…

  2. Even with holes, this film from Koepp delivers with its’ high intensity bike scenes throughout Manhattan and Chinatown. I actually enjoyed the mental route selection what-ifs like NFL Cardinals’ Larry Fitzgerald guessing where the football pass will end. JGL “fixed gear, no brakes” and Shannon “I forgot my bullets” are as mentioned eminently watchable; even Aasif Mandvi “no tool to open a beer” dispatcher adds value. The action on two wheels was powerful; a fun ride at the movies for me. Great post. 🙂

    • Thanks S, sounds as if you and I saw the smae movie. 😉

      I wasnt really a big fan of the select a route scenes, although I did enjoy the awful outcomes they would should as possible futures, LOL. That was fun stuff.

  3. Would you recommend seeing it in theaters? I’ve been reading multiple reviews and none of them quite sold me on that fact. I have an open Sunday and thinking of catching it.

    Good review though.

    • It’s not a bad flick by any means, and in all honesty, there’s nothing else out right now that’s recent that’s any better than it. If catching something in the theatre or waiting for home video is a decision you usually put some weight on? Then probably just wait. But if you’re just looking to kill a couple hours on an afternoon and want to check out something decent, this flick is passable.

      Its not gonna threaten to make my top 10 list this year, by any means, so…

    • Yeah, that’s a good place for it. I mean it’s not going to make anyone feel gipped if they catch it in the theatre, but I know that’s an infrequent trip for you.

      “Flawed but fun” is an apt blurb, for sure.

    • Yeah, well, Looper seems 100x more promising, there’s no doubt about it. Seems like it’s going to be a much fuller storyline, with complete characters, etc.

      This was an excuse to string together bicycle racing sequences, there’s no doubt about it. But hey, they were fun, so… it was ok.

  4. I knew I’d want to see this just because the action, like you said, is so intense. Although I bet it’ll make me squirm a few times when I do see it, because I’ll be imagining all the horrific ways someone could die…there’s an ipad game like this that shows what happens when the biker crashes, and it’s not pretty at all;)

    • LOL. That’s kind of what they do in the “foresight” sequences, where time slows for Wilee, and he imagines the outcomes of each possible path through traffic he could take. Let’s just say he wipes out a lot 😀 Not for real, just in his imagination.

      It’s pretty cool, I definitely enjoyed the biking sequences, and they had the good sense to let that be the majority of the movie.

      The rest of it is some pretty take it or leave it level stuff Livi 😦

      • The “foresight” stuff sounds awesome, and I’m a big JGL fan, so I think I’ll take it:) He’s been in a bunch of dramas and pretty creepy films so I guess we should all give his new blockbuster action phase a chance, just like we’re doing with Renner.

      • Yeah, I’m really really hoping “Looper” delivers. I mean, from the trailers it looks as though it has the potential to be SO bad ass!

        I’m becoming a big fan of his, he’s been really really great in films like Brick and 50/50 and 500 Days, so… like you say, we should definitely give his new flicks a chance, Livi!

    • Yeah, it was ok. I’m not going to rave about it or anything, I just had a decent enough time with it.

      On my podcast this week, Tank gave this a “Meh”, and I really didn’t go out of my way to say anything, I just happened to like the good stuff a little more than I dislike the bad…. 😀

  5. This is out over here in a couple of weeks. I’ll be going to see it. My only expectation is that JGL is riding a bike lots. Looks like fun. Albeit, rather pedestrian fun.

  6. Pingback: Premium Rush Review | The Filmster

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