Genre: Action, Thriller
Directed by: David Koepp
Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Michael Shannon, Dania Ramirez
“Fixed gear. No brakes. Can’t stop. Don’t want to either.” It may not be the Tour de France of movies, but Joseph Gordon-Levitt could certainly give Wiggo a run for his money in this underrated, fast-paced thrill ride.
Gordon-Levitt stars as the coyote-inspired speed demon Wilee, a charismatic and straight talking Manhattan bike messenger with a reputation for being the best at what he does. After a standard ‘premium rush’ pick up, Wilee finds himself in possession of an envelope that holds a lot more weight than the slip of paper it contains. With a dirty cop hot on his heels, a speedy reputation to uphold and a young woman’s life in jeopardy, Wilee is pursued through the city as he tries to deliver the envelope to the rightful recipient. “The thing is”, he says to Michael Shannon’s brilliantly corrupt cop Bobby Monday, “once it goes in the bag, it’s gotta stay in the bag” and you know he’s going to stick to that motto or die trying.
Premium Rush is one of those crafty action films that has all the right ingredients to make a great movie despite its flaws. A lack of depth and character development tells you that it shouldn’t work but, with an intense thrill-factor that’s at the top of the scale, you barely have time to take a breather, let alone care about what’s wrong with the plot. The film highlights the enthusiasm and danger surrounding the life of a bike messenger in one of the busiest cities in the world and if you think delivering envelopes is boring, think again. Wilee and his fellow messengers may be the bane of NYC’s existence, but you have to admire their grit and determination in getting a job done on time. The camera speeds through New York City as Wilee navigates taxi and pedestrian filled streets, police-patrolled parks and violent pursuers, complete with a clever GPS effect that shows us his inner-mind Google Maps perspective. This is one chase movie that won’t be halted by brakes – quite literally in Wilee’s case because he doesn’t have any.
Michael Shannon makes for a wicked villain, not exactly on a par with those of Bond but good in his own right. The supporting characters, though underdeveloped, are interesting enough to invest your time in and, whether it’s the feisty love-interest working as a messenger to fund her studies (Dania Ramirez) or the rival messenger built like a ‘Mr Motivator’ tank (Wole Parks), they provide light relief from the danger of the chase. What really makes Premium Rush work though is Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who’s become one of Hollywood’s most adored and esteemed actors of late, and it’s easy to see why. Securing JGL in a film is like getting your hands on million dollar gold dust; scrap that, he’s solid gold for directors. A movie could have the world’s worst script and crew attached to it and JGL would single-handedly save it from catastrophe. He embodies the reckless chancer with a warm heart, making it impossible not to root for both him and his mission. He’s magnetic to watch and fuelled by the type of high-energy you’d expect his character to have. Take Gordon-Levitt out of the equation and this film wouldn’t even marginally work.
Premium Rush is surprisingly enjoyable, with spot-on pacing, slick action scenes and great direction from David Koepp, the man we know as the writer behind Spiderman and Panic Room. We can thank regular JGL for bringing the magic in this one though and for giving us a thrill ride not to be missed.