Movie Review – Premium Rush
September 5, 2012 5 Comments
If the thought of seeing a movie about fixed gear bike riding and bike parkouring is your cup of tea, then Premium is will be your Dark Knight Rises of the summer. If you were like me upon seeing the trailer for the first time, you had to think that eventually Joseph Gordon Levitt had to pay some dues for critical rise to fame in the acting world. I mean really, bike parkouring and fixie riding….groan. Then again, good things come in packages you least expect and Premium Rush ended up delivering a high octane bike messenger chase film that balanced out the routine plot and line delivery with kinetic bike chases that definitely feel refreshing in the closing of the summer months.
Premium Rush stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Wilee, the free riding, no brake using, fixed gear bike messenger in the busy streets of Manhattan. Swerving in and out of traffic, no care for the motorists on the road, Wilee is asked to deliver a specific piece of mail to a location in Chinatown, a ride that will take him all across Manhattan. But his delivery is made more difficult with the introduction of crooked cop Bobby Monday, played by Michael Shannon. The inevitable formula of bike races, bike parkouring, biking, and well more bike riding takes place as Wilee has to make the delivery.
So yeah, the plot line is pretty much a by the numbers delivery scheme ala The Transporter, but minus the Stath, which is a negative for me. Director David Koepp (Secret Window) does about as well as he can with a script he wrote that is short on exposition, but the true pace of the film comes from the biking and action sequences. Premium Rush is really a refreshing take on the usual care chase films like The Transporter series or really any movie that takes place in New York since car chases happen there as frequently as apocalyptic events. Koepp, along with a slew of stuntmen and CGI techs, manage to make the dangerous job of bike messaging even more exciting as Levitt and crew are weaving in and out of traffic at high speeds.
That’s the best part of Premium Rush in my opinion. The chase scenes are done with minimal digital effects and they feel fast and frantic, often putting the audience in the seat of the biker. Sure you get a few groan worth moments of bike battling, but in the end it’s a great chase movie with inventive bike races and chases. Sure the bike parkouring parts are a bit, “really?!” inducing, but there is a lot of flair to the visuals which helps the film and it’s stripped down characters and story.
Gordon-Levitt is a charismatic lead as he portrays the fixie riding Wilee. Don’t expect any deep or profound character development as what you see in Wilee is what you get. He spouts off some mantra about doing the job for the love and rush of riding without restrictions (i.e. no brakes or gears) and you can tell there is a general adoration that character has for the job. That’s about it though as Wilee is more worried about having premonitions about what direction to take to avoid crashes rather then being a more mature character. The best acting though comes from Michael Shannon. His portrayal as the crooked cop Bobby Monday is just hammy and campy to the point of pure enjoyment. He is the foil to Levitt’s attempt to deliver the package, seemingly able to close the gap in chase scenes while Levitt pumps that no gear bike to hell. Shannon just mugs up his character and I love him for it, definitely bringing in some mustache twirling goodness that I appreciate in an actor, reveling in their designated role.
At a brisk 91 minutes, Premium Rush sets to deliver a fast paced, action packed chase movie with a certain loveable freshness to the whole proceedings. Levitt is his usual likeable self, Shannon plays unhinged, crooked cop very well, and package of the film itself might seem plain, but it delivers the enjoyment where it counts. I will admit, my initial reaction was turned around as Premium Rush brings together tight action sequences into a no frills, high thrills movie. It is the kind of movie you want to close out a hectic summer movie season, one that just delivers what it sets out to do without shooting for a high bar. Everything about the movie screams dumb fun, but it’s exciting dumb fun.
Rating: 3.5 fixed gear bikes out of 5
*image via RottenTomatoes