Movie Review: Premium Rush

Stars: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Dania Ramirez, Michael Shannon, Wole Parks, Jamie Chung

Rated PG-13 for some violence, intense action sequences and language, Running time 91 minutes, Action/Thriller

Compare to: Cellular (2004), 16 Blocks (2006)

I’ve go to admit, I hadn’t heard of this one until about a month ago and didn’t realize it was coming out until a few days ago. That being said, I was still interested despite the premise being about “a guy who rides a bike.” As far as this movie’s concerned, that’s as simplistic a statement as just saying Bobby Fischer played chess.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt just knows how to pick roles and this movie is no exception. It’s fast, funny, exciting, and being that theaters will be slow this weekend, it doesn’t waste your time. I can’t say for certain whether or not this is even going to make any money, though I do think it deserves any attention it will get, if not more.

Wilee (pronounced like the cartoon coyote’s name) is a bicycle messenger in New York City. Aside from having a reputation in his circles for being the best at what he does, he also enjoys the thrill that the job provides. The cops, cars, and distance of his routes provide a challenging and fast-paced job that Wilee loves so much, his relationship suffers for it. But none of that compares to what Wilee faces the day he picks up an envelope containing something a supposed cop (Michael Shannon) wants. Will he be able to make it to his destination in the short time he has? How far will this man go to get what Wilee has in his bag?

Written and directed by David Koepp, the writer behind 2002’s Spider-Man and Mission: Impossible (1996), as well as many other on-screen hits, he knows what he’s doing here. Both examples of his credits should give you some insight into how Koepp is able to take a single guy, put him in a situation bigger than himself, and watch the action unravel as they try to keep their head above water. Wilee’s most basic of routes nearly cause his death or serious injury a few times, and that’s even before we get to the catalyst.

Michael Shannon does a good job here as well, playing the role of a guy whose day would be much better if he could just get the little envelope that this “stupid” courier has. Shannon seems to enjoy the part, letting out crazy exclamations to vent his frustration of a world that won’t cooperate with him while not taking his madness to Nicholas Cage levels. Thankfully. Being no stranger to playing the villain, Shannon has been in a number of films playing characters that allow him an outlet to a darker side, this being no exception. We’re allowed to figure these things out as we go along rather than be given long back stories that suck us out of the energy. Shannon will also be filling the role of General Zod in next year’s Man of Steel.

Speaking of not losing energy, the narrative of the story is one we’re not too familiar with, giving the tone of the film a unique one. The story takes place in the span of about three hours although, we’re taken to a certain point in time, only to put it in reverse and show us a different character’s perspective, then leading us to where our protagonist left off. It’s an angle that is used occasionally, but not so much that it feels old and exhausted.

Gordon-Levitt, or JGL as the ladies call him, is up to his standard of quality; with maybe a bit more adrenaline and aggression to his character than most of his portrayals. A funny trick the filmmakers use a couple times is to show Wilee’s look on which invisible path to take so as to not be hit by a truck, or run into a baby carriage; all scenarios are played out fully each time, some more violent than others (“MY BABY!”). It’s this kind of violence and humor that  can’t help but think is all the more reason for the Koepp to have settled on the name that’s shared with the Looney Tunes counterpart.

Koepp, along with others involved in the production have evidently had some sort of lawsuit taken against them thanks to the author Joe Quirk, whose 1998 novel The Ultimate Rush shares several character names, plot points and other similarities with the movie in discussion. All this aside, this isn’t going to be the massive blockbuster some other releases this year are, but it isn’t supposed to be. What we have is a movie that throws you into the action, entertains you for the hour and thirty minutes you’re there, and bam, you’re on your way out. This is the kind of movie many will forget but it’s definitely worth the time you’d put into it.

Grade: B

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