Movie Review: “Premium Rush” – Sweat, Swerves, and Surprises

Written by Spencer Sterritt August 29, 2012

Even coming from writer/director David Koepp (who’s name is attached to too many great movies to count) and with talent frothing forth from Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Michael Shannon, “Premium Rush” shouldn’t really be as great as it is. The world of bike messagers is nifty, but not exactly interesting, and they are the bane of every driver’s existence. But with everyone firing on all cylinders, or pedaling at full speed, the movie manages to achieve a sublime mix of escapism and thrills.

Charging Forward In Fixed Gear

“Premium Rush” concerns itself with Wilee (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a thrill-seeking bike messenger who has a name as the quickest and most dangerous bike messenger in New York City. His social life isn’t exactly a mess, but he could use some finesse in dealing with others. When he is sent to pick up a package, he runs afoul of Detective Monday (Michael Shannon), a dirty cop in deep with the gangs.

As always, Michael Shannon is batshit crazy.

From there “Premium Rush” charges forth as a chase film of the highest regard. Bike messengers move impossibly fast, weaving in and out of lanes, sometimes even going the wrong way, and the film does an excellent job in keeping up. As a writer Koepp great, but he’s only directed a handful of films (Stir of Echoes and Secret Window among them, not exactly high octane thrillers), and I wasn’t sure if he would be up to the task. Turns out I shouldn’t have worried. For anyone who doesn’t like shaky came or quick edits, this movie is for you. At least 80% of the movie is on bikes, even most of the exposition, and everything is framed clearly. Not once did I wonder where anyone actually was in relation to one another.

Seriously, it’s one of the best directed action films of the summer.

Also, kudos to the film crew because shooting such complicated chase scenes, weaving in and around so many cars in busy downtown New York must be the biggest challenge in pretty much ever.

A Most Suspicious Package

The package Wilee picks up is nothing more than a Macguffin, and it is really the only major flaw in the movie. The story behind the package is convoluted to an extreme, bringing in issues with Asian gangs and immigration all told through flashbacks and purposely vague dialogue. All this really does is pad out the films length to a respectable and still lean 91 minutes, instead of a too short 72. I can’t think of any non-animated movie in the last couple years that has been released with anything less than 90 minutes.

In contrast to that low, the film reaches a new high by actually making us feel for the bad guys. You feel bad for the gangsters doing very illegal stuff, and you especially feel for the bike messengers as they put their lives on the line every second just for a parcel. I mean seriously, if anyone actually had to deal with the stunts they pull in this movie, like messing up traffic and playing havoc with lanes, they’d be red faced and swearing like never before. A whole bunch of secondary characters even take pains to stress how ridiculous and dangerous the bike messengers are, especially one unfortunate NYPD bike officer. Check out this Youtube clip to see how annoying they are:

 

 A Late Summer Burst of Fun

For a film released in the ass end of summer, “Premium Rush” ends up being one of the most fun films of the season. It’s light and quick on it’s feet, and David Koepp has a firm grasp on action scenes. He knows how to do them well, and besides some scenes off the bikes, nothing slows him down. Like some of the most memorable films, “Premium Rush” is escapism of the highest sort.

My Rating: 8/10

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About Spencer Sterritt

Spencer Sterritt

Spencer Sterritt: former Editor-In-Chief for We Eat Films, future President of the Men With Beards Club, and hopefully candidate for ruler of the world.

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