While lawyers, policemen and doctors get television show after television show, bike messengers get nada. Hell, truck drivers in Alaska get a television show. Packrats do, too. How many shows are there about bike messengers? A big fat zero. Not anymore! Bike messengers finally get their day in the spotlight, and not on television - in a big-screen movie starring big-screen actors, depicting just how awesome their low-paid jobs are. Especially when corrupt cops and Chinese smugglers are involved.
Premium Rush stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a balls-to-the-wall bike messenger who never stops - even for Manhattan intersections. He doesn't even have brakes on his bike. When a young Chinese woman hands him a package, however, he finds himself in the crosshairs of a corrupt policeman (Michael Shannon), who chases him across town.
Dania Ramirez also stars to spice things up with her sweaty cleavage.
From David Koepp, who directed Stir of Echoes and Secret Window, Premium Rush is fun as long as you're willing to check your brain - every last ounce of it - at the door. The very definition of late summer entertainment, the movie is far from great and downright stupid at times, but also fast-paced and semi-exciting.
The biggest problem is that the movie looks cheap, like it was thrown together at the last minute to make a few bucks. The special effects, which mainly involve Gordon-Levitt determining which route is safest for him and an on-screen clock, look like they were made using Windows Video Maker. The appearance of the clock is such an inconsequential part of the movie, and yet its cheapness speaks to the attention of detail given to the movie. The Fox show "24" got it right. Premium Rush gets it wrong.
Premium Rush jumps back and forth in time, opting to explain to the audience what is happening with flashbacks. This approach works adequately, but it also suggests a lack of confidence in the movie's overall story arc. The movie has some major plot holes - including never truly explaining how the bad guys learned about the package in the first place - and other elements that require a suspension of disbelief. The climax is a bit lackluster (what was the point of having all the bike messengers show up again?), but it is nice to finally see Michael Shannon's obnoxious character put to rest.
The characters aren't great. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is okay, but he doesn't have to do much other than ride around in a bike. The script's insistence that his character is so cool because he "doesn't use brakes, ever" and likes to live on the edge is just silly. Shannon is an annoying, far-from-threatening villain, who reminded me a lot of his awful character in World Trade Center. I still have high hopes for him as General Zod in next year's The Man of Steel, however.
Despite its many flaws, Premium Rush is escapist fun. It's a movie I never care to watch again, but if I had to I could with a simple shrug. Harmless and fast-paced, the movie works on a rudimentary level, but it isn't as edgy as it thinks it is.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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