Judge Alice Nelson once sentenced a gal to five years in prison for selling Premium Rush out of her basement.
Fixed gear, steel frame, no brakes
In a business that eats up and spits out child actors before they reach their teens, Joseph Gordon-Levitt has gone from child star to leading man. In Premium Rush, he is a bike messenger that battles very adult problems, while trying to safely deliver a package before deadline. Although a fine action movie, this isn't the blockbuster-y goodness I had hoped for.
Facts of the Case
Wilee (Joseph Gordon-Levitt, The Dark Knight Rises) is a daredevil bike messenger requested by a client to deliver an important envelope to NYC's Chinatown before 7:00pm. Piece of cake for a guy like Wilee. What he doesn't realize is that envelope contains something so valuable a dirty cop is willing to kill for it. Now Wilee must make his deadline while trying to stay alive.
Writer/director David Koepp (Secret Window) does his best to tell this story in non-linear fashion, but a lack of cohesiveness makes it hard to stay engaged. Our tale begins near the end, pauses, then backs up to fill in the gaps. Unfortunately, the jumps in timeline and zips between different character subplots are choppy and confusing. We could be in the middle of a scene involving one character and suddenly shift perspectives to the past or present. With each jump, it takes a few moments to get our bearings and figure out just where we're are.
Whether bike messengers have jobs really this intense is questionable, but Koepp does a nice job of showing the dangers they face while weaving their way in and out of the congested NYC traffic. The cast does most of their own riding, but professionals are used for the more complicated stunts. When Wilee gets into a situation where he has to make a split second decision that could mean the difference between a safe passage or serious injury, Koepp uses a technique to effectively slows down the action. Some may find this gimmicky, but I like being able to experience that process with him.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt is solid as our hero, a daredevil who believes having brakes on a bike causes a rider to hesitate in ways that can be deadly. To his fellow bikers, he is irresponsible, but an incident late in the story proves his assertions have merit. Between Premium Rush and Looper, Levitt has proven he has the presence to carry a film as an engaging leading man. Michael Shannon (Take Shelter) is fun to watch as the over-the-top cop Bobby Monday (a cool bad cop name). Yes, his performance is a bit hammy, but perfectly suited to this adversarial character. Also along for the ride are Vanessa (Dania Ramirez, X-Men: The Last Stand), Wilee's ex-girlfriend, and Manny (Wolé Parks), Wilee's chief rival at the messenger service. Both characters are quite formulaic, with Vanessa epitomizing the the feisty Latina tough chick, while Manny serves as the cocky nemesis with designs on our hero's ex-girlfriend. Their performances are fine, but the roles are forgettable and not at all vital to the script.
Presented in standard 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen, this slickly shot thriller has a crisp and clear picture showcasing high-intensity action that isn't nauseatingly jerky. The Dolby 5.1 Surround track brings New York City to life in realistic ways, as if we're right there experiencing the city ambience up close and personal. Bonus features include two informative behind-the-scenes featurettes providing an inside look at how the film came together, and an UltraViolet downloadable copy for your portable devices.
As action-packed as Premium Rush may be, its Inception-esque aspirations prevent it from being a truly great film. Still, the strong performances by both Levitt and Shannon definitely make this worth a rental, and if you can find it at a good price, go ahead and snatch it up.
Not great, but not guilty.
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