It's been a while since we've had a good bicycle movie. I can't even remember the last one—BMX BANDITS? RAD? PREMIUM RUSH probably won't be remembered as a "classic" like any of those, but it does work as a fun throwback to that forgotten genre, as well as mindless action fare. It's fitting this got an August release date. This is the exact kind of decent, unremarkable movie that's perfect for late summer.
Though it doesn't end up sustaining it for the entire runtime, PREMIUM RUSH starts off at breakneck speed from the opening frame. There's a rushed, almost real-time element to it that works really well for a kinetic action movie like this and there's no better setting for it than New York City. The film makes great use of its location, turning the constant chaos and traffic of the world's busiest city in to an entirely separate opponent for our hero. Just some of the simple scenes of Joseph Gordon-Levitt crossing the street on his bike are scary enough, let alone the bigger chases where he's riding against the unending wave of cars, buses and pedestrians. (It's also easy to believe all this crazy stuff could happen on the street and not one New Yorker would bat an eye.)
As he usually does, Gordon-Levitt commits to the role 100% and it's obvious he trained like hell to be able to do most of the riding and stunts himself. (Michael Shannon doesn't have as much to work with as the film's villain, though his hilarious psychotic cackle was one of the film's highlights.) It's just a shame that all of the actor's hard work couldn't be in service of a film with a more original or exciting story. It's surprising as the film's script and direction come from David Koepp, who penned everything from JURASSIC PARK to SPIDER-MAN to CARLITO'S WAY. PREMIUM RUSH's ultimate downfall, however, is the barrage of expository flashbacks that plague the film's second act, bringing the hard-earned energy to a standstill. The jumbled timeline structure is a misstep, continually stopping the film dead in its tracks instead of giving it room to breathe. I know it's probably not plausible to make the entire movie one long chase sequence, but if it had at least kept up the level of energy and action from the first half-hour, PREMIUM RUSH would have been a supreme thrill ride.
The Starting Line (9:30): Koepp and Co. discuss crafting the story and exploring the real-life bike messenger culture.
Behind the Wheels (12:52): Cast and crew open up about the perils and thrills of shooting in NYC and the different kind of chases they were aiming for. ("It's like technology…vs. horse.)
PREMIUM RUSH could've been better and could've been worse. It's a decent action vehicle for the always great Joseph Gordon-Levitt (and Michael Shannon), but can't maintain the energy and fun
Extra Tidbit: Gordon-Levitt suffered a bad crash on his bike and had to get 31 stitches in his arm. Stay tuned through the credits for a quick look at the accident.