Premium Rush Directed by: David Koepp Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Michael Shannon Running Time: 1 hr 31 mins Rating: PG-13 Release Date: August 24, 2012
PLOT: A bike messenger (Levitt) is chased by a dirty cop (Shannon) when he is hired to deliver a mysterious envelope.
WHO'S IT FOR?: Though this action movie is about the world of urban bicyclists, this film (made by people who probably drive SUVs) doesn't seem like it will get much love from niche folk just like Gordon-Levitt's character (when they're not buzzed off their life-blood PBR, at least). Gordon-Levitt is a good glue of appreciation to bring in the viewers that either love fast action movies, or those who swear by the power of two wheels. But for those who think most bikers are obnoxious, suicidal jerks - Premium Rush isn't going to prove them wrong.
EXPECTATIONS: An action movie on two wheels! I'm curious, to say the least.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Wilee: The rising action star (Dark Knight Rises, and Looper soon) is a dynamic choice for this thriller of a different speed. Lacking any flashy muscles or even brakes on his bike, Wilee is an underdog you can root for, as long as you don't mind his arrogance against other cars (which does make for funny slapstick imaginary sequences). With much of the story's drama on his shoulders, Gordon-Levitt shows his boyish face and charisma are more than capable of carrying audiences into an experience they may have never been to before. Score: 7
Michael Shannon as Bobby Monday: For a movie that introduces an offbeat type of transportation, Shannon is the perfect choice for a villain. He's incredibly watchable as a dirty cop who bullies Wilee and others for an item that's desperate nature comes from silly circumstances. Shannon is so wonderfully bizarre in this role, with a New York accent and a constantly irritated expression, that the story gives him whole passages to explode his charisma in. Kneel before Shannon. Score: 8
TALKING: A voice-over by Gordon-Levitt acclimates all audiences members efficiently to the unique life codes of bike messengers, while also making solid claim concerning the pride that drives these members of a fast community. Later on, as the film becomes less about biking but more about giving reason for a chase, things are far from pristine. When it comes to untying the plot's tightly knotted shoelaces, the script's dialogue is of little help. Score: 5
SIGHTS: Here's a movie where it's exciting even just to think how it was shot. The film blasts through numerous busy New York streets, with plenty of jaw-dropping moments that take Wilee against a tsunami of urban traffic, and also through some very narrow life-or-death moments. Like its kinetic inspiration Crank, this one makes exciting use out of GPS maps, often used for wide-shots that seamlessly take us to real street level. Score: 8
SOUNDS: The unique youthful attitude of Premium Rush is framed by The Who's "Teenage Wasteland," which rings triumphant in both usages. Songs like "Salute Your Solution" by The Raconteurs and "Titus Andronicus Forever" by Titus Andronicus give Premium Rush an in-your-face rock attitude. The rest of the movie is sophisticated by a catchy score of fast jamming bass guitars, providing sounds that would certainly be exhilarating to speedily pedal to. Score: 8
BEST SCENE: I loved when Wilee's chase with Bobby added a bike cop to the mix.
ENDING: After a cheesy conch-shell, "Newsteam assemble!" moment, we witness one of the most subtle headshot kills in movie history. An excellent advisory against trying these stunts is played at the end, via an iPhone video.
QUESTIONS: How bankable is this kind of story? Is the concept of biking still not mainstream enough in 2012? Or, is this movie bound to hit the wave of green-friendly transportation perfectly head on?
REWATCHABILITY: This would be great to catch on cable. I'm not sure I would rent it on my own just to watch it again, however.
The beginning of Premium Rush feels like the start of a revolution. Cars used to be the rebel's mode of transportation, and doubled as his/her daredevil deathtrap. Now, in a society where it's hip to be green, the bike is the coolest way to dominate the streets. An action movie with its energy focused on the aerodynamics of biking; it's a good kind of hip idea.
With this mentality, the beginning of Premium Rush provides some great thrills, with our aerodynamic hero Wilee bursting into oncoming traffic on two-wheels (with no brakes) while also making break-neck decisions that prevent him from becoming urban road kill. Add on a shifting list of people chasing him, by bike or by car, and the adrenaline of this awesomely unique concept is certainly evident.
But like getting side-swiped by a driver who may or may not have had the right of way, Premium Rush's bike action movie revolution ends before the third act is even halfway done. As it gets to this point, the script's convoluted plot (all to explain what's in the envelope) has done too much damage to strip the movie of its momentum. Even worse, Premium Rush runs out of visual tricks to make its biking concept as cool as it first felt; an escape sequence in the third act involving BMX-like "shredding" just seems like pandering, as if to give viewers the "Extreme!" Mountain Dew commercial they think they're only going to get.
Like experiencing Crank for the first time, Premium Rush excitedly challenges the way we see action movies. It's an invigorating piece of high-energy filmmaking.
FINAL SCORE: 7/10