Premium Rush review

Review Ron Hogan 28 Aug 2012 - 07:18

Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars in a thriller well, well worth seeking out. Here's our look at Premium Rush...

Every day on the streets of New York City, hundreds of bike messengers carry parcels too important for the mail and too urgent for standard private delivery services. One of these brave men and women is Wilee (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), who risks death for $80 a day if he's lucky. Darting in and out of traffic, Wilee and his compatriots serve a very important purpose, but one particular package is going to turn out to be more dangerous than Wilee could have ever expected.

That package is a movie ticket with a smiley face on it. If it sounds like nothing to you or me, it means a lot to the Chinese underworld. Nima (Jamie Chung) has given $50,000 to a member of the underworld banking system used by Chinese immigrants, and that ticket - which is basically a check - is bound for a snakehead (human trafficker) who promises to smuggle Nima's son into the US. Unfortunately, a lot of bad people know about the ticket, including Detective Bobby Monday (Michael Shannon), a man with poor impulse control and a lot of gambling debts owed to a lot of bad people.

Thus, the race is on. Can Wilee get the ticket to Chinatown before Detective Monday, an overzealous bicycle cop (Christopher Place), and the entire NYPD track him down? Wilee's got 90 minutes to deliver the package, or else.

When it comes to the visual style of Premium Rush, then, the emphasis is on the rush. The movie takes place in semi-real time and never really seems to slow down (even when it has slowed down). To that end, Premium Rush reminds me a lot of a realistic Crank. At no point does the movie seem to reach that outlandish level of cartoon action, but it simply refuses to stop. There are brief lulls, but it's a change in level of action rather than an abandonment of the movie's heart-stopping pace.

The credit goes in large part to director David Koepp, who does not have a traditional action director background. His best-known works are the terrific Ghost Town and Secret Window, neither of which are pulse-pounding thrillers. Still, he really ups his game with Premium Rush, if only in the sense that he successfully throws the audience into the action. There are some very clever camera movements, and the scenes in which the camera follow Wilee through the crowded streets of New York are very well done. The film has to use a host of stunt cyclists, stunt drivers, stunt pedestrians, and CGI trickery, but it's all done seamlessly. According to the IMDB, real bicycle messengers served as riders and assorted crew, and I can believe it.

One of the coolest decisions made during filming is the use of aerial maps of Manhattan and GPS to track delivery routes (which is the other major thing that reminds me of Crank). When someone has to go from the northern end of Manhattan to Chinatown, that means basically nothing until you see just how far a trip that is for a bike messenger, and how many intersections said bike has to weave through to get there. Ditto the scenes where the audience gets to see how Wilee negotiates his way through traffic on his fixie: the multiple potential paths (and their consequences) are a clever way to put us in the driver's seat to see just how quickly decisions have to be made, and how disastrous things can end up.

The script, from Koepp and John Kamps, is pretty light in terms of plot, but it's a great skeleton to hang dramatic action on. That's Koepp's specialty as a writer, given his background with Jurassic Park, War Of The Worlds, Spider-Man, Mission: Impossible, and other effects-heavy flicks featuring a lot of running and chasing. The interpersonal conflicts between Wilee and rival Manny (Wole Parks) remain secondary to the action sequences, and it is to the movie's credit that they are able to turn a mostly-friendly rivalry into a thrilling race scene through Central Park. The movie accomplishes all this with a minimum of violence or language. Premium Rush is PG-13, but you'd never know it based on the amount of sheer thrills the movie packs in its 91 minutes of runtime.

At the screening of Premium Rush I attended, in front of me in the theater were four retirement-aged people, two women and two men. As we were leaving the theater, I overheard them talking, and one simply said “it was just a good action-packed movie.” And that's a great description for Premium Rush: a good action-packed movie.

US Correspondent Ron Hogan has never wanted to be a bicycle messenger less than after watching all the crashes and near-misses in Premium Rush. Find more by Ron daily at Shaktronics and PopFi.

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It seems like Joseph Levitt-Gordon has been busy with The Dark Knight Rises, Looper and this film. Good for him, for doing unusual films and for entertaining us all.

shows he's willing to try everything, and not typecast himself. Remember reading a script review of this a year or two back, been waiting for this ever since. Wonder if I can tempt the missus to see it...

There is an ongoing lawsuit over this film between Sony and author Joe Quirk who published a little novel called Ultimate Rush in 1998. It's worth looking up the details of the case.

The reviews are so good - but it's such a flop at the box office. I wonder why. Maybe because Sony kept moving it here and there and there wasn't any real promotion? It's just too bad. I can't wait to see it once they start airing it here, in my country.

I'd never heard of it before, but went to see it with the wife a couple days back as she didn't want to see Expendables 2. It was great! Fun use of different angles of the same scene in flashbacks. Also, the "decision vision" or whatever it's called was well received by the audience and got a few laughs as well. Actually, there were quite a few laughs sprinkled throughout and none of them unintentional. Always a good thing.

Also, awesome bike work. Who knew you could live without brakes on a bike in NY? Wow.

Some of the CG automobiles were a little obvious to me (it's was the shadows on the ground that spoiled it), but they had to, only because there's no way they'd put a real rider in some of those circumstances.

Finally, I didn't buy the romantic angle - zero chemistry IMHO, and the "fixie" vs "racer bike" race was rather unbelievable at best.

BUT, I loved it. It was exciting, funny, and just a fun night at the movies.

It's a shame to hear it's getting butchered at the box office. This movie deserves better.

Sounds absolutley awesome. Just 'cause it's PG-13 don't mean it's not good action (does NOBODY remember what was the Bourne Trilogy?)

A little, inconsequential story nicely spun into a bubble of fun. Thoroughly enjoyed it, as did the rest of the group I went with. I'll be amazed if a US TV station doesn't pitch a TV series out of it by next autumn.

I've been calling it The Summer of Joe.

Joseph Levitt-Gordon can do no wrong. I remember him back in the days of 3rd Rock from the Sun and I have liked him ever since. He has only really done good movies, but maybe he makes them better because he is a great actor. I agree with the others here that this hasn't really been marketed/promoted. If it was I would imagine more people would go see this, mainly because of J L-G and the other major movies hes been in over the past few years. I will wait for this on DVD/ Blu-ray I think but look forward to seeing it in the winter

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