Dir: David Koepp, 2012
Wilee is the best bicycle messenger New York City has ever known. However, his life is suddenly put in danger as he is relentlessly pursued across Manhattan by a crooked cop who will stop at nothing to retrieve the valuable envelope he is to deliver in less than two hours.
Premium Rush is essentially a love letter to bicycles. That may sound rather dim-witted but, in fact, is the most intelligent and innovative weapon the film has in its arsenal. A pedestrian’s nightmare, these extremist bike couriers that writer-director David Koepp chooses to focus on are the blood pumping through the veins of the New York City streets. Seen but unseen, they’re gone in the blink of an eye whether swerving through traffic or hopping over whatever obstruction might be foolish enough to get in their way.
Foot chases are gruelling and car chases messy but the vicious and wincing pursuits witnessed in Premium Rush confirm the only match for a bike is another bike. Or in some cases, a lens, with Koepp’s movements flowing freely and as slick as the near-suicidal cyclists he tails through the city streets. The CGI is glossy and elegant, reminiscent of this century’s fondness for close or stylised visuals (Fight Club, Zombieland) and the bicycle-mounted cameras improve the rollercoaster ride. Hollywood’s golden boy, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, is ideal as the passionate daredevil that graces the screen with both nobility and wit whilst Michael Shannon is menacing as always, staying on the working class side of villainy rather than wielding a white cat. That being said, neither the characters nor the story are fleshed out to perfection but all we need to know is these people fear the prospect of becoming a desk jockey more so than death. Riding is more than a job, it’s a lifestyle. Anything divulged further just detracts from the adrenaline-laced 90 minutes we crave to see and believe me, of that there is plenty. Even a behind-the-scenes clip of Gordon-Levitt’s failed stunt injury (which required thirty-one stitches) is included in a post-credits scene.
The stereotypical chase movie that involves obstacles, righteous missions and countdown timers are inexplicably tiresome. Premium Rush delivers the same old formula with bursts of creativity, exhilaration and sheer entertainment. What many could simply dismiss as New York from the point of view of a bicycle may prove to be this year’s dark horse for the action genre.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆