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Premium Rush

2012 | 91 min | PG-13 | 2.39:1

Premium Rush


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Theatrical release date

 24 August, 2012
 21 September, 2012

Country of origin

 United States

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Premium Rush


Screenshots from Premium Rush Blu-ray

Premium Rush Preview  

 / 10
Preview by Brian Orndorf, August 24, 2012

The rush in “Premium Rush” only arrives in short bursts, often after lengthy offerings of exposition I doubt most ticket buyers will care about. A chase film that consistently torpedoes its momentum, the picture is frustrating sit, finding co-writer/director David Koepp insisting on a story that matches the intensity of the pursuit. He fails to find one, though “Premium Rush” is determined to deliver on characterization despite a premise that works just fine focusing on the heat of the moment, supported by a marvelous display of bicycle stunts and streetwise navigation that’s depicted with the utmost urgency. Koepp doesn’t trust the basics of the hunt, bending over backwards to paste a soul on a simplistic machine of suspense.

Wilee (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a bike courier working the hectic streets of New York City, a metropolis that loathes these speed demons who’ve developed a taste for reckless riding. A law school dropout with disdain for the suits he spies during his delivery runs, Wilee keeps focused on street activity, nursing a relationship with fellow courier Vanessa (Dania Ramirez), while engaged in a battle of skill with rider Manny (Wole Parks). Accepting a job that requires the safe passage of a small envelope belonging to Chinese student Nima (Jamie Chung), Wilee pedals straight into trouble when crooked cop Monday (Michael Shannon) looks to take possession of the envelope to satisfy his gambling debts. Chased by Monday and a NYPD bike cop (Christopher Place) with a grudge, Wilee works to decode the mystery he’s carrying in his messenger bag, trying to avoid cars and pedestrians as he crosses the city at top speed.

“Premium Rush” aspires to be more like “Speed” than the last major bike messenger movie, 1986’s “Quicksilver” (sorry Kevin Bacon fans). It’s not about the mechanics of the trade, but the thrill of the hunt, following Wilee as he navigates congested streets teeming with raging travelers, using his skills with a brake-less, gear-less bike to weave through traffic demands, using a sort of mathematical future-sense to select the path with the least physical trauma. Think the recent “Sherlock Holmes” update, only with harsher urban timing. Koepp does a satisfying job setting up the chess board in play here, with GPS mapping helping to identify distances and character placement, keeping the viewer aware of Wilee’s grueling passage through the heart of the city, a place that offers little love to the remaining participants of a dying business model (the picture is quick to mention the bike courier as a “last resort” service for businesses).

Go strictly for the stuntwork, and “Premium Rush” is immensely entertaining. Koepp knows how to photograph the feel of two-wheeled speed, using a blend of visual effects (some shots are better than others) and swooping camerawork to provide the intensity of the vocation, observing Wilee and the gang avoid open car doors, intersections, and law enforcement interest while hustling to their final destination. It’s an adrenaline junkie perspective with a delightful smash-em-up attitude, watching the characters pinball around the frame while pedaling furiously. Visually, “Premium Rush” supplies a righteous kick, with visceral elements of pursuit and displays of near-misses that could easily support an entire, breathless feature. Criminally, Koepp wants the audience to feel something for the characters beyond cheap thrills.

Opening with a needless use of flash-forwarding (sharing the end of Wilee’s ride before it even begins), “Premium Rush” likes to play with time. Instead of following one steady stream of suspense, Koepp breaks up the movie into sections, rewinding the ticking clock to dissect the perspective of every player, working in backstory as the chase lurches forward. The director mangles the natural flow of tension with such disruptive demands, especially when the personalities are exaggerated to a cartoon degree. Shannon easily owns the most painful of the performances, steamrolling around the feature with his customary tight-jawed spasms of anger. It’s disappointing, Razzie-worthy work from the actor, generating little interest in Monday’s subplot of desperation and interrogation. It appears “Premium Rush” would’ve managed just fine with a more streamlined approach, taking to the chase and remaining there for 90 minutes of navigation, communication, and exhaustion. Instead, the film takes an ill-advised puzzle route, riding the brakes as it strains to arrange narrative pieces that are either hokey or completely unnecessary.

The climax of “Premium Rush” returns to the promise of bicycle mischief, supplying a more direct shot of hot-wheeled gymnastics as Wilee sweats to evade his foes, triggering an X Games display of tricks and stunts. It's a show of control and playfulness the movie could’ve used more of, seizing attention with a bold physical might instead of struggling to stitch together a most unremarkable story.

Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Michael Shannon, Jamie Chung, Dania Ramirez, Aasif Mandvi, Lauren Ashley Carter
Director: David Koepp

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