Review: Premium Rush
PLOT: An NYC bike messenger- Wilee (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is chased by a dirty cop (Michael Shannon) who wants to get his hands on the envelope Wilee's supposed to deliver on the other side of town.
REVIEW: I was actually kinda stoked to see PREMIUM RUSH. I love urban biking, as it's something I do literally every day that the sun is out in the spring/summer, and anyone who's biked through a jammed-up rush hour in the big city can tell you- things can get pretty hairy. Heck, my town- Montreal is crazy enough, so I can only imagine what biking through NYC would be like, so I was definitely game for a bike-heavy thriller. There's hasn't been one since QUICKSILVER back in the eighties (QUICKSILVER LIGHTNING!!!) so it's not like the premise is old hat.
Alas, PREMIUM RUSH is not the late-summer jolt it should have been. The writing's been on the wall about this one for a while now, with it having sat on the shelf for a good at least a year (a billboard promoting NBC's long-defunct THE EVENT is featured prominently at one point), and having finally gotten the chance to see it for myself, I'm sorry to say PREMIUM RUSH has a lot of problems- the most critical of which is a story that doesn't make a lick of sense.
The premise calls for the bike courier hero, played by Levitt, to transport an envelope containing a laundry ticket to Chinatown, leading to a stash of cash that's been deposited with a middleman by a Chinese exchange student- played by the cute and predictably helpless Jamie Chung. A dirty cop- played by Shannon, in debt to the Chinese mob has to get the ticket and the cash in order to square himself. However, how the Chinese mob ever finds out about the ticket, or why Chung is even using a middle-man, and then a bike courier after the fact is never properly explained. The premise is just paper thin, with director/writer David Koepp probably hoping audiences will be caught up enough in the action not to care. I doubt it.
Too bad, because PREMIUM RUSH has a lot going for it. Leading man Joseph Gordon-Levitt is white-hot after his turn in THE DARK KNIGHT RISES, but he's totally wasted here- with him (or rather, his stuntman) spending a good 80% of the movie on his bike-riding like the kind of idiot (even before he's being chased) that give bike-messengers a bad wrap. I suppose they're trying to do for biking what FAST AND THE FURIOUS did for cars, complete with lots of mumbo-jumbo about how his fixie (fixed-gear- no breaks) bike is supposed to represent his lifestyle (cause he won't stop- get it). Sigh.
But- while Levitt has nothing to do, Michael Shannon, one of my favourite actors, seems to be having a whale of a time playing the dirty cop. He plays the guy like a total psycho, with his eyes all but bulging out of his head- and chews the scenery so mercilessly that even Nicholas Cage would probably tell him to chill. It's way, way, WAYYYYYYYYY over the top, but really- watching Shannon go nuts was the most fun part of the movie. There's actually a great little ten-minute stretch that shows how he gets in debt to the mob which is great, but plays like a sequence from another, better movie. Poor Levitt- as a result of the emphasis on Shannon, winds up off the screen for large chunks of time in his own movie.
One thing I can give PREMIUM RUSH is that it's very lean, running a taut 85 minutes, and it aspires to take place in something close to real time- but with all the flashbacks, this gimmick doesn't really work all that well. The bike scenes are well shot- and little to no CGI seems to have been used to sweeten the stunts, although the constant obstacles placed in Levitt's way to make him jump, duck and swerve every two seconds are a little much. The best of the bunch is probably a warehouse chase featuring Levitt and his sexy girlfriend, played by Dania Ramirez of HEROES (don't even get me started) trying to escape NYPD bike cops by using some cool bike tricks and stunts. A whole gang of bike messengers that were invited to the premiere were hooping and hollering at all the bike action, so it might pick up a cult following on that score.
All in all, despite a good cast, and solid stunt work, PREMIUM RUSH is wrecked by the thin premise, and the nonsensical way the characters act. It's not terrible, but it's annoying as it could have been a really tight little b-movie, and would have been with a better script. Consider this one a near miss.
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|Extra Tidbit:||Both Levitt (LOOPER) and Shannon (THE ICEMAN) have movies playing at TIFF that look awesome.|