(L-R) Actors Dania Ramirez, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Jamie Chung attend the "Premium Rush" New York premiere at Regal Union Square on August 22, 2012 in New York City. (Getty Images)more pics »
The Bottom Line
Should you see it?
A throwback to when action movies weren't all life and death, save the world-type flicks. Premium Rush is fast, harmless fun.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Wilee, a messenger with a reckless reputation. His bike is fixed gear, no brakes and he tears through red lights taking chances others never would. But, why do it? Bike messengers aren't exactly up there with firemen and pro ballplayers on kids' lists of what to be when they grow up. But, there's a glory to being a bike messenger and Premium Rush does a great job at capturing that notion. No matter the occupation, people take pride in their work, and being the best, no matter the field, counts for something.
So, okay, bike messenging isn't quite as romantic as its made out to be in Premium Rush. Obviously, that's part of the fun — taking a seemingly menial job and turning the stereotype on its head. The job's a grind and dangerous to boot. Most bike messengers can't freestyle over cars, across balance beams, or through construction zones, but those guys are out there. Wilee is just an unheralded bike savant, a hidden gem, lost in a nameless industry... or something.
What Premium Rush lacks in plot, character development, and believability, the film makes up with sheer urgency and merry bravado. Wilee, his girl Vanessa (Dania Ramirez), and his rival Marco (Sean Kennedy) are all messengers in the Big Apple. Wilee scoops a package that draws the interest of a shady cop (Michael Shannon) who wants it no questions asked. Abiding by the code of the messenger, Wilee hands him his burrito instead and takes off.
The entire film is a chase scene as Shannon and one particularly unlucky bike cop pursue the rascally Wilee through the city. Shannon's performance is particularly boffo as he screams at everyone and bugs his eyes out in fits of rage. The marvelously talented actor shows a devilish wild side he seems to relish. As the chase goes on and on, Shannon becomes more and more unhinged and unpredictable. He was likely given room to do what he wanted with the character which only adds to the cartoonish fun of the entire thing.
Levitt drives the film with his bike skills and his stunt work is admirable (an end credits clip shows the actor bloodied after flying through a cab windshield). The film would not work with heavy effects so the bike stunts had to be mostly authentic. As one of today's most likable actors, Levitt has few equals. Whatever he's in, whatever the role, you want him onscreen. His Wilee is cocky, arrogant, but endearingly fun-loving, and it helps that the girl likes him.
David Koepp co-wrote and directed Premium Rush and he's struck a cool balance between big-time action and cult subject matter. Usually, prospective cult films don't have multi-million dollar marketing campaigns, but this is a unique movie. Koepp has been around Hollywood long enough to know what works and what doesn't and Premium Rush works. At 91 minutes, there's no time to waste and Koepp doesn't. His action sequences are tight and well-choreographed with massive payoffs (bad guys eat street and good guys do too). The film is a throwback to '80's action movie-making — keep it simple, keep it fun.
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