When I first saw the trailer for Premium Rush my reaction was of slight bewilderment due to the fact that someone made a bike messenger action thriller, and that it starred Joseph Gordon-Levitt no less. The idea seemed preposterous and bold at the same time. I’m pretty sure most movie-going audiences haven’t been clamoring for such a movie and judging by the weak box office numbers the movie had its opening weekend, it looks like that assumption is correct. However, the trailer actually looked entertaining and with Levitt starring and David Koepp on writing and directing duties, I was intrigued. So I hopped on my bike (aka my car) and rode (drove) to the theater and bought a ticket for the film, low box office numbers be damned!
Despite a little hokeyness here and there, Premium Rush is a pretty entertaining and engaging thriller. The plot is pretty simple but it’s told in a non-linear manner so that it keeps you engaged in figuring out what character motivations are and why things are happening. The characters themselves aren’t terribly deep for the most part but all are serviceable and help push the story along. There are two characters that stand out in the movie, Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s Wilee and Michael Shannon’s Bobby Monday. Wilee is interesting because he seems to be a honest and nice guy with a devil-may-care attitude when it comes to biking and his safety. He either has a bit of a death wish or he’s just extremely confident in his bike skills, which he does show off in most of the action scenes. Levitt plays him earnestly and it’s easy to get behind him as the character. Bobby Monday, on the other hand, is a psychotic loose cannon. He’s also a cop. He has major impulse problems and is dangerous because of his unpredictability and desperate need to capture the envelope that Wilee is carrying. Michael Shannon plays him with a zealous energy and he steals quite a few scenes. He’s funny, but darkly so, and there is always a sense of instability present.
The bike action is all pretty exciting. The camera weaves in and out of cars as it follows Wilee on the hectic streets of New York. There is a great kinetic energy in the camerawork when the focus is on the bike messengers. There are some cool bike stunts but nothing that really seemed to be over the top or unbelievable which helped make the movie take its subject seriously. Even when Bobby Monday is driving his car through the streets chasing Wilee on his bike, they do a good job of showing how advantageous a bike is over a car (at least in New York), despite the speed differences. Monday never hops on a bike to chase Wilee but the film does include some bike on bike chases when a bike cop comes into play. I enjoyed the bike cop chases since he kept popping up and providing some humor to the proceedings when he’d get injured in his attempts to capture Wilee but always fail.
The somewhat standard story does feel like it prevented Premium Rush from being a great movie but I felt it did its job in providing a well-paced, humorous and exciting movie. Looking at the box office numbers now after seeing the movie is a little sad because I feel the movie is more entertaining than some of the other movies I’ve seen this summer and it looks like the film will be overlooked by most people. Premium Rush isn’t destined to become a classic since it is essentially pure popcorn entertainment but it is pretty fun and worth checking out if you just want to have an enjoyable diversion for an hour and a half.
by Ben McBride