There’s a common understanding when it comes to films from major studios: if a film is scheduled for January, it’s either Oscar bait or complete trash. Premium Rush doesn’t exactly appear to be Oscar bait, so when it was moved from January 2012, it was a promising sign…until it landed in August, the second worst month for major releases.
Fortunately, Premium Rush is not quite the disaster that its various scheduled release dates would imply. Oh, it comes close at times. Thanks to a winning lead performance from Joseph Gordon-Levitt, though, Premium Rush is an enjoyable, occasionally thrilling film.
Gordon-Levitt stars as Wilee, a bike messenger in New York City whose bike-riding skills are both remarkable and incredibly dangerous. When his last delivery of the day brings him into the path of a dirty cop, Wilee has to make his way to his destination while avoiding death.
Yeah…the concept of the film sounds more than a little flimsy. In an attempt to tell a story that spans several hours in roughly an hour and a half, writer/director David Koepp employs frequent use of flashbacks and shifting perspectives. This approach to storytelling tries to build suspense, but it ends up sacrificing storytelling for “gotcha” moments.
This doesn’t make the film a waste of time, though. As boring as a movie about racing around on bikes might seem, it’s actually pretty thrilling in the context of the film. By placing the story in New York, there’s a palpable sense of danger as Wilee and other characters weave throughout the city, making their way all over Manhattan in short amounts of time. It helps that the chase scenes were all shot on location in Manhattan. The action on the screen is legit.
Proving more important than the thrills, though, are two performances in particular. The importance of Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s casting in the lead role can’t be understated. Gordon-Levitt is among a small group of actors working today with enough charm and talent to carry a subpar story, and he does it effortlessly. Also worth noting is Michael Shannon as Bobby Monday, the aforementioned dirty cop. Shannon’s manic energy makes him a compelling adversary for Gordon-Levitt.
In an era where film racing involves ever-increasing technological changes, it’s interesting that a film centered around chases on something as simple as a bike feels more dangerous. Audiences looking for uncomplicated action can find something to enjoy in Premium Rush.