Premium action guarantees a rush
It’s possible too many movies are filmed in New York, especially considering the type where America’s city is under attack either by aliens, superheroes, or some unseen origin of destruction. But it’s hard to imagine a better setting for “Premium Rush,” a bicycle messenger thriller made all the more entertaining by Manhattan’s rush hour chaos and uber-hip surroundings.
That’s where courier Wilee (Joseph Gordon-Leavitt of “Inception” and “Dark Knight Rises”) feels right at home, pedaling his fixed-gear, brakeless, steel-framed bike at frenetic speeds and unconscionable risk in order to deliver the goods – usually for about $30 bucks a package. Fellow employees Vanessa (Diana Ramirez), a sometime girlfriend, and the muscular Manny (Wole Parks), who wants to steal her are adrenaline junkies and pride themselves on being the fastest, most dependable messengers.
A simple but effective plot has Wilee involved in the delivery of a mysterious receipt on behalf of Vanessa’s roommate Nima (Jamie Chung) that appears to cause both a human life and a large sum of money to hang in the balance. So high, in fact, that crooked cop Bobby Monday (Michael Shannon) will do anything to intercept the package before it is delivered. One well-orchestrated, nail-biting scene has Monday, by sedan, chasing down Wilee and his two-wheeled rocket while trying to dodge the angry taxi drivers, baby strollers, and the surprise door openings that wait around every corner. Another cool little idea has Wiley, with GPS in hand, visualizing—along with their typically hilariously catastrophic results—his pathway options as he approaches a crowded intersection.
Leavitt’s lean physique and closely-cropped hair make him appear perfectly equipped for his role as a daredevil do-gooder, though in the boyfriend-girlfriend scenes he seems a little out of his element. And Shannon is positively Walken-esque in every good sense of that implication as a dirty cop with a wickedly fun sense of humor. (It’s a character quite different from his low key performance in the spellbinding paranoia tale “Take Shelter.”)
Former screenwriter David Koepp directs with a precise, energetic style using a variety of angles, POV shots, what must be dozens of creatively-mounted cameras while somehow avoiding (or not yet resorting to nausea-inducing) wobble of any kind.
Maybe the plot’s a little thin, and who knows how much of the portrayal of these manic messengers is fiction, but “Premium Rush” is end of summer escapism at its best and it guarantees you’ll never look at a biker in NYC the same way again.
Rated PG-13 for violence, action sequences and language.